How to Survive at Sea

July 23, 2014 by | Be the first to comment »

Surviving at sea is unique in that it give you fewer options than other environments. You might be able to find water at a lake in a forest, by melting snow in the mountains, or even digging a solar still in the desert, but at sea you are stuck praying for rain. Your shelter is usually limited to your raft if you’re fortunate enough to have one, and you can forget about starting a fire.

You can survive at sea for a long time though. Just ask Jose Alvarenga, who survived for nearly sixteen months in a battered boat stuck on a reef by drinking rainwater and eating fish and turtles.

Survival at sea depends on meeting your most basic needs and getting rescued.


Try not to discard anything that can be used to protect you from the elements. Multiple layers can keep you warm at night (even in the water) and during the day, you can wear wet clothing to keep you cooler while using extra clothes to shade you from the sun’s brutal rays.


Never drink seawater or urine. They may temporarily quench your thirst, but they will actually increase your dehydration and put a sever strain on your already taxed kidneys. Instead, use containers, tarps, and plastic bags to catch rainwater or even improvise a solar still.


Finding food at sea is easier than most other environments because you are surrounded by fish—an added bonus is that your boat’s shadow will attract them! You can use shoelaces, string, wire, or the inner strands from 550 cord as fishing line, and anything shiny as a lure. A sharp, thin piece of metal makes a perfect hook.


Face it, you’re probably not going to paddle to shore, so you need to signal an aircraft or boat to rescue you. A signal mirror works wonders, but the screen from your smart phone will work too. The reflection from a signal mirror or smart phone can be seen for up to ten miles on a sunny day. Whistles and signal flares can dramatically  improve your chance of being rescued.

Melanie Swick (a.k.a. Survival Chick) grew up wanting to be a rocket scientist, but when she realized she that required way too much math, she took to her second dream—spending time in the wilderness. Today, when she's not hiking, camping, or hunting, she's blogging about it. You can connect with Melanie on Facebook.

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