Tag Archive for: Survival

In-water survival

Having to survive in the water after your vessels sinks or through a person overboard situation can be a terrifying ordeal and one that I hope you or your crew don’t have to go through!

The question is…

…if you found yourself in that situation could you survive?

The sad fact is that most people don’t really consider it until it’s too late. On commercial vessels it’s a requirement to undertake drills to ensure all crew have the knowledge and skills to deal with emergencies.

Over the last few months I’ve been delivering onboard safety training to crews around Australia, which has highlighted a serious lack of knowledge and complacency was highlighted yet again.

Having said that lets look at survival techniques.

Here’s a few points to consider first…

  1. Does anyone know you’re in the water?
  2. Are you alone or are there others?
  3. Are you injured or is anyone with you injured?
  4. Do you have a lifejacket on?
  5. Is there an inflatable life raft?
  6. Where are you?
  7. What are you wearing?
  8. What are the conditions?

These are some of the major factors influencing how you survive. If nobody knows you’re in the water then that’s a major problem to start with.

Injuries represent another issue depending on the nature of the injury while not having a lifejacket on puts you in a serious survival situation.

Where you are, what you’re wearing and the prevailing conditions all represent major problems in surviving!

If you’re 50nm offshore and find yourself in the water with no lifejacket or anything else to support you in the water and nobody knows then you’re in a heap of trouble. Survival in this situation is not impossible but to be honest chances are limited.

If you’re undertaking a solo voyage then I strongly recommend wearing a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) that’s GPS activated. This is probably your best chance of survival but the information following may also apply in the above scenario.

Your alone in the water with a lifejacket on, not nice but better than being without one! So…how do you enhance your survival rate?

Hypothermia is a major issue no matter where you are. Even during the last few months delivering training too many crew members thought that hypothermia didn’t happen in the tropics.

If you’re alone in the water you need to use the Heat Escape Lessing Position (HELP) minimise the amount of heat loss from your body.

The HELP position is achieved by crossing your arms tightly against your chest then drawing your knees up and against your chest and keeping your head and face out of the water.

If there’s more than one person then you use the huddle technique. This is where you all huddle together in a group to reduce the heat loss of all persons.

By huddling together you make it easier for rescuers to see you in the water. A group huddling together with lifejackets on is much easier to spot than you alone.

Learn more about in-water survival in the next issue.

This is a topic I cover in my onboard training session along with how to safely and efficiently handle other emergency situations.

If you’d like to know more about these valuable onboard training sessions contact me by email sms@shorlink.com or call my office on 07 4242 1412

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

If you haven’t trained your crew in basic in-water survival techniques I strongly recommend doing so now before the event. If you expect you or your crew to survive in-water then you need to give everyone, including yourself the best chance of survival by getting the right training.

It’s not only good sense it’s also a requirement for owners and Masters to ensure all crew are inducted, trained and drills undertaken to ensure the safety of all persons onboard.


Crew training saves lives, one of which may be yours so don’t let complacency be the cause of injuries or loss of life. My best tip is to make a start to change the culture onboard your vessel sooner rather than latter!

Crew Training Log Book Log Book requirements.

We all know log books are required and we can supply a number of generic formats including a Crew Training Log book which ensures you record all the information required by AMSA.


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!