How to Survive Being Stranded at Sea

How to Survive Being Stranded at Sea

Liam Gamache, Writer

How to Survive Being Stranded at Sea

By Liam Gamache

March 7, 2021

Floating out into a void of blue, you see the bow of your cruise ship finally sink below the surface of the water. You turn to 3 complete strangers, who look just as dumbfounded, hopeless and terrified as you do. Not knowing how long you might be floating out here, you need to form a plan fast and take action if you have any hope of survival.


Being stranded at sea with only a small raft and a flare can be horrifying and desperate situation to be in, with the right knowledge and perseverance, it is not without hope for anyone unfortunate enough to fall into this fate. That’s why today we will go over the essential steps for survival on a life raft.


After creating some distance  from the sinking vessel, your fist step should be to establish a leader. For some, leadership comes naturally and on many occasions, the person with the most marine knowledge and experience will take charge. 

If this doesn’t happen though, a leader or someone to direct the groups course of action is still needed, so your going to have to choose one. You can do this in many ways, from getting to know your crew-mates and the strengths, or simply a game of rock paper scissors. The method for choosing a leader is up to you, but it is vital that once a leader is chosen there is no dispute over the decision. 

Getting into an argument this early on will lend badly for the rest of your time on the raft, and groups who end up arguing over what to do greatly decrease their chance of survival. 


After establishing the leader, sending for rescue should be the next task for your group. Many life rafts come equipped with both a flare gun and an EPIRB or Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. Both of these tools are used to help rescue vessels and helicopters locate your position. 

To use an EPIRB, first remove the protective cover from the device and locate the switch or button on the front of the device. Than push the button or switch and wait for the strobe light to appear, indicating that the device has successfully activated. What this will do is send a GPS signal to surrounding rescue station, which will help the coast guard locate your life raft. 


Secondly, if your raft is equipped with a flare gun, you can use that too. Simply step to the edge of your life raft and point the gun at a 45-60 degree angle, cock the hammer at the back of the gun and pull the trigger. Make sure to look away and have your crew-mates cover their ears. If the flare is seen by any surrounding boats or coast guard in the area, you will likely get rescued quite shortly.


Finally, once all rescue devices have been activated, you need to start rationing out the food and water provided in the life raft. Most rafts come with a small amount of water and barley sugar. After the first 24 hours, 125 grams of barley sugar should be issued to each survivor. This should provide the necessary glucose intake needed to survive for a short period of time. If any of your survival mates get dehydrated, water may be rationed, but should be used conservatively. Other than that, there’s nothing left to do but hold tight and entertain yourself until help arrives.