“Water! Water everywhere, but not a drop to drink”. There are many clichéd stories out at sea and this is one of them that we wholly agree to. On the flipside, this can only hold true when we are in a small craft striving for our survival. As we all know, food and water are the basics for survival, but out there as castaways at sea, things seem pretty off-balanced. One can live for weeks even without food, but it takes only three days to choke unto death without water or fresh drinking water, to be specific.
Surviving in open seas is dementing and depends on the survivors’ ability to apply the required skills and be able to use whatever is available and meant for survival. The question is how do we overcome the mountainous task of surviving in a craft with little or no drinkable water around?
Science has shown us various techniques to manipulate our well-being. Humans on the other hand have adapted, improvised and overcome the shortfalls of those techniques. Similarly, when at sea and with no help at sight, one can still survive the life threatening conditions with little improvisation and a lot of patience.
1. Our bodies require a minimum of a litre of water every day to stay alive and balanced. Drinking small amounts of fresh water when in a crunch situation can help us to be focussed on our survival, although over-time ingesting less water will weaken the muscles and tissues of our system
2. Never drink sea water in its natural form – Unless there is sufficient fresh water available, one should completely avoid taking in salt water. Experts say and we agree that drinking sea water will make us all the more thirsty
3. Don’t eat any food unless you are sure of availability of potable water – Digesting food requires lots of water and if one is rationing it, eating minimum quantity of food is the only solution. Besides, we can survive longer without food than water, so act wisely
4. In hot conditions, loss of water from the body which can be in the form of sweat should be avoided as much as possible. Keeping the body temperature cool by being in shade and using sea water to cool-off is advised
5. Collecting dew in misty conditions, rain water in the tropical regions and ice in polar conditions are a few suggested methods to contain potable water for survival. One can use sponge or a piece of cloth to collect dew from the crafts hull and this can be done at night in foggy conditions. Plastic bags or other make shift containers may be used during a rainfall for a reserve that will be required later. One thing to remember here is that it is advisable to drink as much rain water possible, as it is very much safe. If stuck in the Polar Regions, one can melt the bluish-greyed ice and consume it as potable water. Such ice is normally devoid of salt and is ok to ingest.
6. Should you feel the need to eat, avoid taking in proteins such as fish or for that matter even dried eatables like biscuits as they require lots of water for digesting. Drinking urine should be avoided too at any cost. It is suggested to have fish for its aqueous content also. Bones and eyes of fish are a good source of salt free water, which can be easily suckled upon
Improvising on the available survival equipment can save many lives at sea. Moreover, with good knowledge we can save many lives by finding and conserving water.
You may also like to read – Concept: A Life Raft that Makes Drinking Water from Seawater
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Bikram Pal Singh – is a professional mariner and blogger. He has sailed extensively serving on various Oil tankers and Offshore Vessels. Currently a Chief Officer, he enjoys reading and compiling notes about critical shipboard operations and crew psychology. When not sailing, he loves backpacking, is an ardent adventurer and a certified diver.
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