Even if you are a good swimmer, you may not last too long in the water at sea without a good offshore life jacket. If you are in rough seas you will tire quickly. If you have sustained an injury you may not be able to swim. If you are going to be in the water for many hours prior to rescue, if you are rescued at all, a good quality offshore life jacket may save your life. Some life jackets are designed to support an unconscious person in a face up position. That is the type of life jacket that you want to own for offshore passage or travel.
So let’s say that you have a good quality offshore life jacket and you are floating alone or with your companions 20 miles offshore on a dark and stormy night, or even a sunny and calm day. Your ultimate goal is to get out of the water and on someone else’s boat as soon as possible. What measures can you take to improve your chances of survival? Here are a few:
Make sure that your life jacket has a whistle, mirror and strobe attached. After a few hours in the ocean without drinking water you may not be able to yell for help if you see a nearby vessel, but your whistle will not fail you and the sound carries a lot farther than a voice.
If it is a sunny day then you can utilize your mirror to signal vessels or aircraft.
There is nothing quite like the flash of the mirror which can be seen for miles. It is a good idea to practice signaling with a reflecting mirror from time to time.
At night – a battery powered strobe light
At night time the mirror will do you no good in most situations unless you happen to reflect the beam of a searchlight. That would be an extraordinary piece of luck. Don’t count on that. What should you have? A battery powered strobe light which will pierce the darkness and bring the rescue vessels or aircraft in your direction. Strobes are cheap enough these days and they will save your life. Compare the manufacturer’s specifications and purchase the brightest and long-lasting strobe.
If there are multiple people in the water at night in a group, not floating away from each other, consider utilizing one rescue strobe at a time to have backups just in case you are in the water for a long time.
Finally, purchase an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and take it with you as you abandon ship. Activate it as soon as you can. Do not let go of it. Better yet, these days there are EPIRBS that can be worn on your wrist like a watch. Remarkable technology that can save your life.
It is easy to spend a few hundred dollars on good survival equipment, but when you see the rescue vessel approaching your position, you will be glad that you spent the money.
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