Over the last few weeks, we have talked about using a radio, including how to make an emergency call. While uncommon, some emergencies can lead to the loss of a vessel and the need to abandon ship. The emergencies that can lead to this can broadly be grouped into two categories, fires and compromises to the watertight integrity of the hull.
As in most other emergencies, your chances of survival are often decided long before the actual event. For this reason, we are going to talk a little bit about the sort of plan you should have in place to increase your chances of survival if you must abandon your boat at sea and the steps you should take if you are forced to make this decision.
While you may only have seconds to act, as soon as you have decided to abandon your boat you should make every effort to broadcast an emergency call and at the very least state where you are and that you are going to abandon ship. It goes without saying, but at this point everyone should have life jackets on and if you are in the habit of not wearing one at sea you might want to consider changing this habit.
If time permits, every loose item that will float should be thrown overboard. This obviously includes life rings and other safety devices, but also eskies, seat cushions, and anything else you can grab. The basic rule is, if it floats it goes! This will increase the number of things you and your passengers can use for added buoyancy and to get clear of the cold water. A larger debris field is also easier for rescuers to spot from a distance.
As you are leaving the boat you should be activating your EPIRB and this should be securely attached to your life jacket so it can’t become separated from you. You should also be taking your pre-prepared grab bag with you, which is where your pre-planning comes into play. This bag can in practice be any watertight receptacle that will float and should contain items you may need to survive including:
- Extra water
- Suitable food
- Blankets and waterproof sheeting
- First aid supplies
- Charts, notebooks, pens
- Portable marine radio
If you have any questions about abandoning ship, or anything else related to your boat, you can always contact Volunteer Marine Rescue Gladstone