Shelter at Sea

Shelter at Sea

This page contains information on how to survive by finding shelter in the open seas and oceans in an emergency situation, also you will find useful tips on how to dress warmly by improvising.
Your survival in the open seas depends upon your ability to use the available survival equipment, and your special skills to apply them to cope with the hazards you face as well as your will to survive. But most importantly your ability to improvise, because every survival situation is different, so think and improvise by taking advantage of what you have available to you.

Shelter in the Open Water

Knowing how to survive at sea is very important because water covers about 75 percent of the earth's surface, with about 70 percent being oceans and seas. Most likely you will cross at some point vast expanses of water. There is always the chance that the airplane or ship you are on will become crippled by such hazards as mechanical problems, storms, collision, or fire.

Knowing how to use personal protection from the elements is just as important on the seas as it is anywhere else. Some boats and rafts come equipped with insulated floors, spray shields, and canopies to protect survivors from heat, cold, and water. If rafts are not so equipped or the equipment has been lost, survivors should try to improvise using plastics, clothing, or other equipment available to you.

As a survivor on the open water, you will have many obstacles such as waves, currents, wind, extreme heat or cold. Your goal is to keep these environmental hazards from becoming serious problems, take precautionary measures as soon as possible. You mainly need to:

  • Protect yourself from extreme heat or extreme cold and humidity.
  • Obtain water and food.

Obtaining food and water is discussed in a separate page. A shelter is more important than finding food and water especially if it's extremely cold or extremly hot. So you can start with that. Survivors must try to stay dry and keep warm. If wet, they should use a wind screen to decrease the cooling effects of the wind. If you have a canopy, a tarp or any large plastic then that would help a lot. Try to spread it as shown on the image above. Make sure it's attached very well, the last thing you want is your shelter flying away because of strong winds.

Whether you were able to create a sheltered space or not, you still have to shelter your body as well, and the way you're dressed is very critical.

Clothing at Sea

In cold sea and oceans, survivors must try to stay dry and keep warm. If wet, they should use a wind screen to decrease the cooling effects of the wind. They should also remove, wring out, and replace outer garments or change into dry clothing. Hats, socks, and gloves should also be dried. If any survivors are dry, they should share extra clothing with those who are wet. Wet individuals should be given the most sheltered positions in the raft. Let them warm their hands and feet against those who are dry. Survivors should put on any extra clothing available. If no anti-exposure suits are provided, they can drape extra clothing around their shoulders and over their heads. Clothes should be loose and comfortable. Also, survivors should attempt to keep the floor of the raft dry. For insulation, covering the floor with any available material will help.

Survivors should huddle together on the floor of the raft and spread extra tarpaulin, sail, or parachute material over the group. If in a 20- or 25-man raft, canopy sides can be lowered. Performing mild exercises to restore circulation may be helpful. Survivors should exercise fingers, toes, shoulders, and buttock muscles. Mild exercise will help keep the body warm, stave off muscle spasms, and possibly prevent medical problems. Survivors should warm hands under armpits and periodically raise feet slightly and hold them up for a minute or two. They should also move face muscles frequently to prevent frostbite. Shivering is the body’s way of quickly generating heat and is considered normal. However, persistent shivering may lead to uncontrollable muscle spasms. They can be avoided by exercising muscles. If water is available, additional rations should be given to those suffering from exposure to cold. Survivors should eat small.

Shelter at Sea

Antiexposure Garments: A garment intended to protect the wearer from the effects of prolonged exposure to water, cold and wind. Such a garment is usually a one-piece suit of insulated and waterproofed fabric, with elastic cuffs and sleeves, feet and neck designed to prevent ingress of water. It is designed to lessen the cooling and other deterious effects of exposure to a wet and/or cold environment, including immersion in water. Also often referred to as "exposure suit", "immersion suit" or "survival suit". Having this suit can increase survival chances. (click on the image above to see the full steps).

Warm Oceans. Protection against the Sun and securing drinking water are the most important problems. A survivor should keep the body covered as much as possible to avoid sunburn. A sunshade can be improvised out of any materials available or the canopy provided with the raft may be used. If the heat becomes too intense, survivors may dampen clothing with sea water to promote evaporation and cooling. The use of sunburn preventive cream or a Chapstick is advisable. Remember, the body must be kept covered completely. Exposure to the Sun increases thirst, wastes precious water, reduces the body’s water content, and causes serious burns. Survivors should roll down their sleeves, pull up their socks, close their collars, wear a hat or improvised headgear, use a piece of cloth as a shield for the back of the neck, and wear sunglasses or improvise eye covers.

Sea Shelter Tips

  • Try to stay dry and keep warm.
  • Protect yourself from extreme heat or extreme cold and humidity by wearing extra clothing.
  • Huddle with other survivors to keep warm.
  • Move or exercise frequently enough to keep the blood circulating and keep the body warm.
  • Spread an extra tarpaulin, sail or parachute over the group.
  • Keep the floor of the raft dry. cover the floor with any available material for insulation.
  • Be careful not to snag the raft with shoes or sharp objects.

There are steps you can do to be prepared for a survival situation at sea. When you board a ship or aircraft, find out what survival equipment is on board, where it is stowed and what it contains. For instance, how many life preservers and lifeboats or rafts are on board? Where are they located? What type of survival equipment do they have? How much food, water and medicine do they contain? How many people are they designed to support? If you are responsible for other personnel on board, make sure you know where they are and they know where you are.

More information: We hope this page was helpful and provided you with some survival techniques on how to take shelter in the open seas and waters. Check out our main page for more survival scenarios here Survival Guide, knowledge is light, and knowledge can save your life. Make sure you do your best to know what to do in a survival situation and then hope for the best.


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