Monday, May 18, 2009

15 Tips For Surviving A Rescue At Sea

There are plenty of ways for mariners to learn safe boating and sailing techniques. The Coast Guard Auxiliary offers these courses along with vessel safety checks. But what happens if you end up in the water? There you are, sitting in your life raft hundreds of miles from shore. What happens after the rescue? That's the point of this post, to help you survive the rescue.

Before leaving the dock you need a properly registered 406 EPIRB on your vessel. If you are a U.S. sailor you can register your beacon here. If you are an international sailor and your country doesn't have a domestic registry you can access the international beacon registry here. Here are 15 other things to consider before, during, and after a rescue.

Before The Rescue:

Prepare a small waterproof bag with the following items. Make sure the bag is accessible and small enough so you can take it with you if you need to be rescued.
  • A copy of your passport. This will help State Department officials get you new documents if your passport is lost.
  • A copy of a second ID. A second ID helps immigration officials if you are taken to a foreign port.
  • A copy of your shot record. If you are rescued by a commercial ship and taken to a foreign port you may be required to show your immunization record.
  • A copy of a credit card. Make sure you copy the front AND back of the card. Depending on the card's services you may be able to request cash or other assistance.
  • Cash in small bills.
  • Prepare a sail plan. Make sure the people identified as emergency contacts in the beacon registry have a copy of it. Rescue officials will ask things like last port of call, next port of call, satellite phone numbers, email addresses of the sailors/boat, and vessel identification. Consider attaching a photo of the vessel with the sail plan. Emergency contacts should be able to email the sail plan and vessel photo to search and rescue authorities.
During The Rescue:
  • Remain calm.
  • Activate your EPIRB. Your EPIRB will alert rescue authorities you are in distress and identify your location.
  • Follow search and rescue authorities directions.
  • Know that resources are coming to find you.
  • A commercial ship participating in the Amver system may be dispatched to rescue you. Moving from a small vessel to a large commercial ship requires careful attention to detail. Commercial shipping crews are trained for these situations. It is critical that survivors follow directions carefully to ensure a successful rescue.
After The Rescue:
  • The ship that rescued you may not take you to the closest port, rather their next port call.
  • Rescue authorities may contact your next of kin on your behalf.
  • Rescue authorities will likely contact the rescue vessel's next port of call. Immigration and customs officials need to know you will be disembarking.
  • If you are a U.S. citizen the State Department will be notified of your pending arrival in a foreign port.
State Department personnel will help you get new documents, contact your family or friends in the United States, and help you arrange lodging and transportation home. Repatriation costs are your responsibility. The United States will not pay for the costs associated with your rescue or return home. There should be no cost for the actual rescue.

Have you been rescued? What was your experience? What would you suggest we add to the list? Tell us your thoughts.

Photo credit: Fotolia

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