You awake to the mournful cry of seagulls. You sit up, look around at some of the lushest vegetation and the most pristine beach you’ve ever seen and realize you’re in paradise… even if you’re alone in the middle of the pacific.
The 45-foot swells that ripped your cruise ship into pieces shattered your vacation, and now you find yourself here.
Okay, unless you’re the next action star, the chances of being trapped on an island are small, but there are many situations in which you might have to cross dangerous waters in the wild.
Sometimes understanding the dangers and knowing how to react can mean the difference between life and death. If you have little or no resources available, it doesn’t mean you have to be stuck on the shore.
Consider these creative ideas to float across the waves to safety before you are cast away.
- In the wilderness and along most shorelines, tall sturdy grasses—like cattails and American dune grass—abound. These types of grasses are thick and strong, and they can be used as your rope to tie.
Sadly, along most rivers and sea banks, a plethora of trash and waste debris, both natural and artificial, cover the area.
- This survivalist’s treasure can be sifted through to find the perfect base for your raft.
- If you want to make it particularly buoyant and can find them, tying a couple of milk jugs to your base will really keep it above the water.
- If grasses are not available, shoelaces, socks, belts, and necklaces can also make great rope.
- Securing your driftwood or other large object with the homemade ropes can take you across the waves to safety.
Your options on building a personal floatation devices
If you must cross water to get to a safe place, there are many things that can be turned into your lifesaver. Clothes, driftwood, empty containers, or even sticks and grasses can be formed into a raft.
If you aren’t lucky enough to have an American Red Cross-certified flotation device, the Red Cross suggests these great alternatives.
Clothes are usually the handiest and in warm weather are not necessary to cross water and retain body temperature. If you’re wearing pants, they can be easily and quickly modeled into a floating tube. First, tie the leg openings, pull up the zipper and button the waist.
Next, wet the pants a little. Rapidly swing the pants to inflate with air, close the waistband tightly and quickly submerge them in the water.
Consequently, you have the perfect inflatable to hold you above water. Another alternative is to keep your clothing on and inflate them on your body. “If you have a shirt on, you can blow into it down the neckline after securing it at the waistline, either by tying or tucking it into your pants,” says Janelle King, swimming instructor and former Red Cross-certified lifeguard. “The shirt will expand and help you float for short intervals.”
Milk jugs, bags
Many times after a flood or hurricane, trash litters the edge of water that must be crossed to get to safety. Several of these castaway items can be utilized to ford a river, lake or stream in your path.Grocery bags securely sealed, filled with air and tied at the waist act as a tube. These are strewn everywhere and easily kept in a pocket for later uses. Lastly, most other plastic or light metal containers like those used for gasoline or detergents can be closed and filled with air are possibilities for a speedy escape.
Plastic milk gallon jugs filled with air will bear you for a while or at least to cover a short distance.
If hiking through the wilderness or surfing along the shore are your cup of tea, many natural resources make excellent floatation devices. Split trees, logs and large branches found in the woods can be thatched together or fashioned into a skiff.
Even small pieces of a broken boat, catamaran or surfboard will carry you to safety if you find yourself stuck out at sea. Although you may see it as a movie myth, escaping on the old standby of driftwood is typically a safe way to shore.
Be creative, search
Whether you’re alone in the wild or stranded in the middle of the ocean, there’s always a road to safety. When you’re down to the wire and your path to life means crossing water, look at your surroundings, check your belongings and survey the area. An answer or clue to your survival is within reach if you know where to look.
My survival tips for staying in cold and hot water
Cold water can hasten problems
If you’re forced into a situation in which you must stay afloat in water to survive, always take into account the temperature of the water.
Flotation devices and the ability to swim are helpful, but if the water is very cold or hot, neither of these lifesaving essentials will matter unless you know how to adapt your body to the water temperature.
When you’re crossing a cold body of water, keeping your head above the water line really can save your life. “Many great swimmers drown while treading water because they get cold water in their ears and lose their equilibrium,” says Janelle King, swimming instructor and former Red Cross certified lifeguard.It’s also important to wear your basic clothing because it holds the warmth close to your body. Many types of clothing are good at trapping air and will aid in buoyancy, King says.
Whether you’re clutching a log or treading water, it’s vital to control your heat loss by grouping survivors together in huddles to share body heat and protecting your “high heat loss areas” like extremities, groin and head, the Maine Island Trail Association recommends.
Unless you must use a piece of your clothing or shoes for a flotation option, keep it on your body to aid against hypothermia and other cold-water related ailments.
What to do in hot water
Luckily, steamy sea temperatures are not as treacherous for those in a life-or-death situation as cold water is. With hot water, the problem is the body over-heating and the influence of bacteria, but taking off your clothes can help. Pants and coats can be turned into rafts and utilized to hold your head above water.
Usually, warm water comes in the form of salty ocean tides, so the urge to drink—especially in the sun—should be avoided at all costs. If you can form a piece of clothing into a protective covering for your head to shield yourself from the rays, that is optimal.