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Abandoned Ship – Sailing – Sail Away Girl


Hello Sailors,

At the request of my friend Brad, I am covering today what to do once you have abandoned ship and you and your crew are safely in the life raft. So you are all on board and the dinghy, canoe, kayak or other water toys are tied to the raft; containers are 80% full of water and attached to the raft; and the painter to the yacht has been cut. Now what?


Here’s what to do immediately after you are all safely on board the life raft and have loaded everything you could grab from the yacht on board:

  • Get clear of the sinking yacht ASAP – the suction created by a sinking ship is immense and will take you with it.
  • Once clear of the yacht, stream the sea anchor or drogue.
  • Close all entrances after all inflation relief valves have stopped venting(unless you are in the tropics and need the ventilation and weather permits) .
  • Have everyone read the survival manual from the life raft.
  • If the skipper did not survive or is incapacitated, asign one person to be in charge and immediately take direction from this individual. Choose an individual that has a strong will to survive.
  • Post a lookout to look for survivors, useful flotsam and of course any rescue vessels or aircraft.
  • Inventory the ditch bag items as well as anything you and your crew brought on board with you.
  • Give everyone a sea sickness pill and sea sickness bag. Everyone should take a sea sickness pill for the first 48 hours.
  • In cold waters, inflate the raft floor, if an option, or sit on cockpit cushions if they were brought on board with you. Bail and dry the raft floor.
  • Administer first aid as needed.


  • Establish a watch schedule after everyone has been trained on proper use of the signaling equipment. Schedule watches in pairs and for one hour duration. One of the pair should be inside and one outside if conditions permit.
  • Assign duties including a person in charge of rations and water, one in charge of collecting rain water and condensation, and one in charge of the log.
  • Make sure that anything that could puncture the raft is secured both inside and outside of the raft.
  • Ventilate the raft in accordance with raft instructions.
  • No food or water on day one unless sick, injured, or very young; then day two and on, 1/3 of the agreed ration; the last day of rations, divide by 1/2.
  • Maintain morale. Never speak of defeat. Play games, tell jokes, sing, listen to the radio if you have one, or play competitive upbeat games.
  • Make arrangements for disposal of urine and defecation. Dispose of immediately unless there are sharks around.


Hate these downer topics, but your life could depend on it, so better to be prepared than in the dark.

Tomorrow I will cover long term survival on a life raft.

Have any tips of your own to share? Please do in the comments section below.

See you on the water,

Sail Away Girl

For further reading check these out:

Personal Grab Bag

Ditch Bag Wants

Ditch Bag Musts