More on Survival Techniques – Simple things to survive!

, ,

More on surviving at sea!

Last week we gave you an introduction to surviving at sea and this week we’ll expand on that with more tips on survival for you and your crew.

  HUDDLE and HELP positions

Previously we mentioned the HUDDLE and HELP survival positions which can be instrumental in saving your life if you don’t have a life raft.


Heat escape lessening position or HELP for short

When you are alone in the water, this position protects the body’s three major areas of heat loss (groin, head/neck, and rib cage/armpits).

Wearing a PFD allows you to draw your knees to your chest and your arms to your sides. Huddling with other people in the water lessens the loss of body heat and is good for morale

Even if you do have a life raft there’s a lot more to surviving! Let’s consider you were able to launch the life raft and managed to get everyone onboard, what next?

The very first thing you need to do is ensure everybody is accounted for then check for injuries. Once you’ve dealt with the injuries the next step is critical to everyone’s survival because it’s one of the biggest dangers you’ll face.

Panic is the one thing that’s hard to control because suddenly finding yourself in the water miles from anywhere and stuck in a life raft is a traumatic experience.

It’s critical for all that you get everyone calmed down, easy to say: not so easy to do but it’s a major first step to surviving.

One of the keys is to get everyone organised in the raft so that they are not all over the place then get everyone to take a few slow deep breaths. This helps calm them down.

Now it’s time to get to work by ensuring the EPIRB has been activated, bailing out the raft then start scheduling lookouts. I prefer short periods as a lookout to keep all focused on something other than the situation.

It’s also time to consider rationing of food and water taking into account where you are and the potential for rescue. My thing is no food or water for the first 24 hours then only small sips of water rather than gulping it down. Same approach for food as well.

If you’re way offshore rescue may be somewhat longer than being close inshore but if you’ve activated your EPIRB be assured that rescue is on its way.

Just a little thing that many people forget or are not aware of is that life rafts can have a tendency to spin or rotate. This is guaranteed to make the hardest seaman sick.

  Life rafts come equipped with a drogue or sea anchor and it’s a simple matter of deploying it ASAP to minimise the rotation of the raft. It also slows down the rate of drift and keeps it in the best position relative to the sea condition.

A key fact is that NO flares should be set off unless there is someone to see them! Far too often people panic and let off one flare after the other. The result is that when a vessel comes along there are no flares left: big problem!

What else can you use to attract attention? Your life raft should be equipped with:

  • Flares
  • Heliograph (mirror)
  • V Sheet

A heliograph is a great device for attracting attention during daylight hours by aiming it at the wheelhouse of a passing vessel. To a lesser degree you can use it by directing torch light onto it then aiming it at a close by vessel during darkness.

The V Sheet, so many people think of its use as like a flag which may be of use for passing vessels but for a passing aircraft use this way makes it very hard to see.

The best way to use a V Sheet when search and rescue aircraft are out looking for you is to lay it flat on the water. This makes a large, easy to see orange identifier.

If you happen to find yourself in the water without a life raft but have a V Sheet use it like described above if aircraft are overhead.

Remember, hypothermia is real and it will affect you if you’re in the water or in a life raft so make sure you take all precautions to limit its onset.

The above is only a guide and there are many other steps that can save your life but…

…there are many dangers involved that can impact on your ability to survive!

If you would like more information on this subject or to book a training session don’t hesitate to contact me because…it’s your safety and the safety of your crew!

Shorlink’s Recommendation

We strongly recommend ensuring your crew know these survival techniques and…know them well. Providing the right training is essential to ensure you and your crew have the best possible chance of survival if you find yourselves in the water!

As I said last week it’s a requirement for owners and Masters to ensure all their crew are inducted, trained and drills undertaken to ensure the safety of all persons onboard.


By simply training your crew in the HUDDLE and HELP position may be the one thing that saves their lives.

Training in life raft launching, righting and use is also a life saver so my best tip is to make sure you provide your crew with the best possible chance of survival by delivering not only initial training but ongoing training!