Abandoning ship into a liferaft is really a last resort. Unless the boat is sinking or on fire, you stand a greater chance of being rescued, and less chance of suffering from hyperthermia in a flooded boat than you do in a flimsy rubber liferaft. Having said that, it’s vital you and your crew know how to launch, inflate and board a liferaft and how to survive in it.

Before abandoning ship

  • Send out a DSC alert and Mayday.
  • Wear plenty of warm clothes and foul weather gear, and a hat.
  • Put on lifejackets.
  • Grab a pre-prepared grab bag – here’s what should go in it.
  • If you have one, a handheld radio and an EPIRB should be attached to the liferaft.


  • Stow your liferaft somewhere accessible – don’t bury it in a locker.
  • Attach the painter to a strong point on the boat
  • Release the fastenings and launch it – to windward if the boat is on fire, otherwise to leeward
  • When it’s in the water take in the painter slack and give it a sharp tug, this should inflate it.


  • Try to avoid jumping in, where possible board from a ladder or a stern platform.
  • Ideally the strongest person should go in first, as they’ll be able to haul others inside if needed.
  • Cut the painter.
  • Distribute yourselves evenly inside.


  • Now comes the difficult bit. Traumatised survivors often deteriorate into a zombie-like state when the reality of their situation sets in.
  • The skipper must take control of the situation if the occupants are to survive. Establishing a routine, giving people responsibility for tasks, getting a watch system established, and singing(!) are all things which can help.
  • Above all, a positive mindset and a belief you will survive is crucial.

Ray Mears – Extreme Survival at Sea

This video has in it some great survival tips, and incredible stories of survival against all odds. In case you don’t have time to watch the full 30mins (although it is worth it) I’ve linked directly to some key bits below:

Further Reading


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