Staying Aflot

Staying afloat at sea with no boat or life raft in sight is no different from a survival basic. It depends upon the ability of the survivor to use the available survival techniques in lieu of the improvised ones.


The greatest danger to a life floating in the sea is its submission to cold water or if considered precisely, it is death due to something known as “Hypothermia” –  a condition where a survivor, when immersed in cold water, experiences substantial loss of body heat to the surroundings, lowering the core body temperature to below the normal survival temperature.


To ride out of situations like these, the survivor/s is required to try and remain calm.  Shock and panic send the wrong signals and that might influence other survivors. Interesting to notice is that sometimes it is ‘teamwork’ that may be considered a life saviour.  Here is how the crew can survive staying afloat:

  • The best protection is to stay above water as far as possible, as immersion in water means heat loss and increased chances of hypothermic conditions.
  • If staying dry and above water is not possible, donning anti-exposure or Immersion suits may lessen the rapid heat loss and extend the survival time.
  • Life-Jackets must be properly inflated and well secured to the body. They should be worn by the survivors at all times in water.
  • The head must be insulated if possible and be above water as more than 50% of heat loss is from the head and neck portion of the body.
  • Body to be in a floating position either vertical or horizontal.
  • One can try swimming with and without a life jacket to get to safety. When using a life jacket, either swim sideways or try swimming with backstrokes for short intervals conserving energy and being effective in going further distances.
  • When one is not with a life jacket then floating horizontally with the head above water is the best option to stay afloat. One can also float in a vertical position and swim to short distances using buoyancy from trapped air underneath the clothes and also by expansion and contraction of air in the lungs.
  • For a single survivor, getting positioned in the “HELP” or Heat Escape Lessening Posture and remaining still should increase the survival time and reduce heat loss and it turns out to be more effective than swimming.
  • Maintaining proximity to other survivors for increased motivation and more importantly prevention of heat loss while ‘Huddling-up’. Huddling is a floating position where the survivors circle around each other to reduce loss of heat.


HELP and Huddle


So, it is clear that a survivor who is on a whim and does not know how to relax in water has little chance of survival. No matter how bad the chances are of survival, the ‘will’ needed to ride the situational storm is definitely grand. Remember, surviving at sea even with little help is always possible provided it is not taken nonchalantly.

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