What Would I Do If I Was On A Sinking Ship


What do Poseidon, Death Ship, The Finest Hours and Titanic have in common? Aside from the obvious that they’re all movies about a sinking ship, they also show how resilient men and women can be when faced with the prospect of dying. However, one should not rely entirely on resilience in order to survive a sinking ship or other emergency situations, for that matter. There’s always the need to be prepared for whatever could happen. This is what drives preppers and survivalists to do what they do best. It should also drive you to do the same.

Hollywood is obsessed with the idea of a sinking ship and for good reason. The thought of being on a ship that’s doomed to be swallowed by water is what fans of such genre are looking for. In real life, however, it’s even more terrifying. If you wish to not suffer the same fate as Jack, read on and learn some of the ways you can survive a sinking ship.


Be Prepared

Every Boy and Girl Scout’s mantra should be everyone else’s as well. Be prepared. Before boarding any ship, you must know what you to know in case of an emergency.


Do Your Research

When Titanic was starting to sink, the passengers had nary a clue what was happening. At least that’s what we see in the movie.  It’s important to know how the particular ship you are on reacts to taking in water.

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If you know this valuable information, you’ll know immediately if something’s wrong with your ship thus you can act quickly and save your life and that of your family and friends. As a general rule of thumb, if the ship is stable or no longer rolling like it normally would then it’s likely taking in water.


Find Out Where the Lifeboats and Flotation Devices Are

When you enter a building, you look for the exits so you know where to go in case of a fire or active shooter situation. When you board a ship, look for the lifeboats, life jackets (usually in your cabin), and the evacuation map. If you’re sailing with an infant or child, make sure they have personal flotation devices specific for their size.

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Take note of the emergency lights in case the power goes out. These lights should show you to the exits and the lifeboats. As for the PFDs, you should know how to use them. They usually have instructions on them, so take the time to read and explain them to the younger ones.


Make Friends

One of the biggest barriers when you travel in other places is language. This could happen in a cruise ship, as well. Just ask the family in Titanic who can’t speak or understand English how difficult it is to find their way around a doomed sinking ship.

Hopefully, the cruise ship you are in has crew members who know the language. Make sure to talk to them even before the ship sets sail. Ask them about what to do in case of an emergency.


Pay Attention to the Announcements

Pay attention to the evacuation signal. Seven short blasts from the horn followed by long one means you’re in deep trouble. Also listen intently to announcements made through the intercom. Crew members may also go around the ship to make sure everyone knows what’s happening.


Know What To Do

When you’re on a plane, you are asked to take a look at the safety card and to pay attention to the instructions of the flight attendants so you’d know what to do in case of an emergency. But even before you board a plane, you should be wary of such important details.

The same can be said when you go on a cruise in a huge ship or go fishing in a small boat. You should know everything that needs to be learned before you even set foot on a floating vessel.


Pack Your Evacuation Kit

Even if you’re just planning to spend a day on a boat to relax or fish or both, you need to bring the necessary gear to make sure you make it back to shore.

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In case you’re on a sinking ship, make sure you grab your evacuation bag and take it with you as you board one of the lifeboats. Your gear will also be pretty useful if you are left floating and hanging on to debris or washed ashore on some strange island like what we see in the movies.

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Your evacuation kit should include a compass which will come in handy in finding your way back to safety. A flashlight, headlamp, lighter and waterproof matches will be useful especially at night. Rescuers will easily spot you as you float in darkness if you have some kind of light on.

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In case you spot another vessel, a plane or a helicopter, use a flare or mirror to get their attention. An emergency whistle or marine air horn will also work to some extent.

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Pack a thermal blanket, as well. It can cover you from direct sunlight while the reflection of the sun will make it easier to spot you in the open water. It’s also a great way to stay warm at night.

Some of the things to watch out for when you’re stranded in the middle of the ocean after abandoning a sinking ship are hunger and dehydration. Pack fresh water and food rations in your kit.

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Your health will quickly deteriorate if you don’t have the means to take care of yourself while waiting to be rescued. Aside from having enough food and water, you should also have a first aid kit to treat minor wounds. Sunscreen will also be important since you’ll be directly under the sun.


What to Do If You’re On A Sinking Ship

Before you can put your evacuation kit to good use, you must first survive a sinking ship.


Stay Calm

As with any other emergency situation, the right way to deal with a sinking ship is to stay calm so you can think properly and act accordingly. Calm down other passengers who are panicking. This is important since panicking people will only make things difficult for everyone else to escape and survive. If you see someone frozen in fear, shout and shake them back to their senses.


Put Your PFD On

Once you hear the signal or announcement telling you to abandon ship, you should quickly put on your personal flotation device and then help the children and elderly put theirs on. If time permits, put on waterproof gear that may help you survive the cold water before tending to the others.


Grab and Go

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Grab your emergency bags and head to the nearest exit. Look for any of the crew members. They will tell you what exactly you should do to escape the sinking ship.


Head for the Safest Way Out

The nearest exit may be compromised. If it is, head for the next one. Avoid the elevator as much as possible. There’s the risk of power going out while you’re inside one. Use it only if the stairs are already flooded and impossible to pass through.

Once on the deck, look for the nearest lifeboat. If you get confused because of all the commotion, look for an emergency station or a crew member. Be wary of how the other passengers are acting. Chances are they know where the crew or lifeboats are.


Board the Lifeboat

Once you find a lifeboat, get in. If you’re a dude, follow the Birkenhead Drill and help the women and children to board the lifeboat first. Board as soon as it’s your turn. Try your best not to get wet so you won’t suffer from hypothermia later on.

In order to survive a sinking ship, one should avoid playing the hero. There’s little you can do in as sinking ship so you don’t have to stay behind and help the crew. They are trained for such a scenario. You are not.

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If there are no more lifeboats, look for a lifesaver or life preserver ring. You’ll need this if there’s no other option but to jump off the ship. If that’s the case, find a clear spot in the water then throw the lifesaver and jump after it.


Once in the Water

If you’re lucky, you’re on board a lifeboat waiting to be rescued. Again, you need to stay calm. Some in the lifeboat may need to be calmed down, as well. Make sure no one is panicking as chaos may cause the lifeboat to capsize.



Hopefully, everyone on the lifeboat managed to take some important items with them such as food and water. Gather all your supplies and figure out how long they will last. You will need to ration.


Stay Hydrated

Aside from the rationed water, you can gather and drink rainwater. Avoid drinking urine or sweater. Apparently, you can sterilize saltwater. You just need one milliliter of unflavored bleach for every liter of seawater. If you happen to have a 5-liter container, for example, simply fill it with seawater and add 5 ml of bleach. Stir then wait for 3 to 4 hours. Stir once more and wait another 3 to 4 hours until the water is sterile. You then have to remove the bleach from the sterilized water. Ideally you should have a dechlorinator such as sodium thiosulphate. If you don’t, you have to perform aeration, which is quite difficult given the circumstances. If you happen to have everything you need for this to work, then good for you. In reality, though, this could be nothing more than an answer to a trivia question. Of course, knowing this piece of knowledge is better than not knowing at all.


Protect Yourself from the Elements

It gets pretty cold at night. Wear warm clothes and huddle together so each other’s body heat will keep everyone warm. When the sun is up, try to hide under a shade all the time. Put on some sunscreen, as well.


If You’re In the Water

In many cases of sinking ships, not everyone made it to the lifeboats. In the early days, there were not enough lifeboats for everyone on board the sinking ship. This led to too many deaths.

If you’re unlucky enough not to make it to a lifeboat, you’re best chance of surviving is to hang on to flotsam or any floating debris. Contrary to popular belief, Rose wasn’t saved by a door but an intricately designed chunk of wood that couldn’t carry both her and Jack.

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The most important thing to have after abandoning a sinking ship is the will to survive. If you’re determined to make it out alive then you have a clear advantage already. All you need now is the proper knowhow on how exactly you could survive a sinking ship.

If you have other tips on how to survive a sinking ship, please share it with everyone else. Those looking for more survival tips, ease take the time to look at The Gentleman Pirate.

What Would I Do If A Tsunami Is Coming Photo by Moshe Einhorn/Bigstock

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Gentleman Pirate Club aims to share valuable knowledge and tips on how you can prepare and survive emergencies and other dire situations. We think of different scenarios and show you the many ways you can survive them. We also believe in self-sufficiency as a way to prepare for whatever lies ahead. As our ship sails in these waters, we look for valuable treasures. When we spot one, we tell you where it is.

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