Abandoning ship should be the last resort, reserved for when the ship is sinking or there is a serious fire.
Resist the temptation to get off the boat simply because you are seasick or miserable. No matter how bad the situation may seem, the boat often survives. Crewmembers could be in more danger if they abandon the boat than if they stay on board.
If you must abandon ship, follow these steps:
- Bring the life raft on deck and tether it to the boat, or prepare the boat’s dinghy.
- Prepare an abandon ship bag, or ditch bag, with provisions to address thirst, hunger, cold and wet conditions as well as a method of signaling rescues. Take water (as well as a hand-operated membrane desalinator if available), paddles, food, a knife, a handheld VHF/FM radio, flares, a signal mirror, an EPIRB (satellite radio beacon), a sea anchor, seasickness medication, fleece clothing, foul-weather clothing, blankets, waterproof containers, a small bilge pump and a sponge.
- Inflate the life raft and tether it to the boat. Throw the raft downwind and pull on the tether until the raft inflates. If it inflates upside down, right it.
- Notify others. Use the radio and leave a note to identify the boat and yourself, indicating whether you will return.
- Abandon ship. Put the gear in the life raft, climb in, turn on the satellite radio beacon and cut the tether to the boat.
For more information on boating safety, take a seminar at a squadron near you.