Greetings from the seaside! The long-awaited vacation is over and with it a myriad of seaside activities: swimming, sailing, snorkeling, motorboat trips etc. However, things can easily go wrong. A sudden change in weather conditions, strong gusts of wind or motorboat failure may force you to spend a day away from civilisation and luxury. To help you out in similar situations, this article presents a few seaside survival techniques. I also tested water-resistant and stormproof matches, a fire starter equipped with a compass, and a Helikon-Tex magnesium fire starter. Will they still work if they get wet with seawater? Let’s see.
Check out our offer of bushcraft and outdoor equipment:
- fire starters
- axes and saws
- folding shovels
- orientation in signalization
- tarps and ponchos
- sleeping bags and bivy bags
If you find yourself on an island or an unpopulated area where weather or a faulty/damaged boat prevent you from returning to the civilisation, make peace with the fact that you may have to spend a day there. Don’t panic. Find shelter or make one, find drinking water and food, start a fire. Know that a search and rescue operation will start as soon as the weather permits. Make sure to stay calm and collected.
If you find yourself in trouble, mark the most visible spots in the area to show that you need help. Lay a piece of your clothing, tarpaulin or a plastic bag on the coast or the most visible spot. You can also use the trash and items deposited on the beach. If you have a flare, glow stick or smoke signal in your survival kit, use them for signalling. I made the sign and a stone sculpture on the shore. Make use of anything at your disposal to be as visible as you can!
Nights can get pretty cold by the sea. It’s often windy, which means that you are at risk of hypothermia if you spend the night in the open and without shelter. Note that wet clothes further reduce your chances of survival. You can make shelter in thick vegetation, under trees or in the bushes, or find a natural shelter (a cave). If there are no trees or bushes around, you can build a shelter from stone or any other material available at the time. Place stones in a circular or semi-circular shape and build until it’s high enough to protect you from wind. If you cover the shelter, it can also protect you from rain. If you can, line the ground with grass, pine needles or any other vegetation you can find to make your shelter as comfy as possible.
Don’t drink seawater! Although the search for drinking water can be challenging, don’t give up. If it had rained the day before, find rainwater in stone hollows or between conjoined tree trunks. If it’s raining, drink the water directly. Find a can or plastic bottle on the shore to catch the rain or place a piece of your clothes in the open and wring it later. Another way to find drinking water is to collect it from leaves or make it from seawater with solar energy and condensation. Boil seawater in a can or a pot and catch the drops with a lid. Not that the quantity of water obtained in this way is very small, so appreciate every drop that may help you survive. Avoid oleander (Nerium), which is a very common coastal shrub with beautiful colourful flowers. It is known as a decorative plant, but it is extremely poisonous and toxic. Ingestion may lead to death.
Tinder and fuel were easy to find. There were lots of dry grass, pine needles and resin, cones and different branches that are useful for starting and maintaining the fire. Although it had been rainy and windy the previous night, I managed to find enough tinder in thick vegetation under the pines and shrubs to light the fire with my fire starter. I only made a small fire for fire safety reasons; the soil was too dry despite occasional rainfall in previous days. In addition, I always started the fire on the shore, which is full of stone and sand, in order to minimise the risk of the fire spreading.
As for the product testing, I drenched the fire starter and stormproof matches in seawater. I even took the matches out of the box and let them float in the water for a while. The fire starter produced a strong spark. Salty matches also ignited immediately and continued to burn despite strong wind. The compass on the fire starter worked perfectly. I checked its functioning at night with the help of the Northern Star and during the day with the help of the Sun and a stick as well as with the compass on my watch.
It was easy to find food on (and along) the shore. Some vegetation (olive trees with olives, figs, brambles etc.) was on the rocks, while clams and crabs could be found in the water. Clams and crabs are filter feeders, which means they may contain harmful microorganisms and should not be eaten raw. Boil them to destroy the majority of bacteria. Fishing tools can be crafted using your accessories or anything you find on the shore. You can use eggs during the nesting period, but only when your survival is really at stake! DON’T CHASE BIRDS AND DESTROY THEIR NESTS!
TOOLS AND ACCESSORIES
Any natural accessory to enable or ease any task is welcome. I was able to find stones of different shapes and sizes to be used for various purposes (digging, fixing, cutting etc.). Other materials could also be useful, such as plastic or metal, different strings, nets or cans deposited by the sea. Sharp rocks or empty shells collected on the shore can prove useful for cutting.
For instance, I crafted a stone hatchet using my pocket knife and the materials found on the shore. I quickly spotted an adequate stone, a plastic and a metal string, and a wooden handle. I split the handle with the pocket knife, inserted the stone and tied everything together with the two strings. In this way, I made myself a useful hatchet for cutting, digging or fixing. It could also be used for hunting and protection, or for removing and breaking clam shells. Sharpen the blade by rubbing it with another stone.
While the seaside has so much to offer with its warm and pleasant climate, it can reveal its dark side as well. If that happens, your skills, strong will, perseverance and knowledge can help you weather the crisis in the most comfortable way. But the most important thing is to never give up!
I’ll see you on our next adventure.