Lost At Sea? Survive With These Tricks

A handy manual to prepare you for life's misadventures.
Chris Philpot

Jose Salvador Alvarenga was fishing off the coast of Mexico in late 2012 when a powerful storm sent his boat adrift. Marshall Islanders found the battered vessel nearly 16 months later, stuck on a reef—with Alvarenga still alive inside. Rainwater and a diet of fish and turtle sustained him (or so he told the press). Curious how DIY savvy could stave off disaster, we asked Frances and Michael Howorth, authors of The Sea Survival Manual, for advice.

Shelter: Don’t discard any clothing; multiple layers can keep you warm during cold nights. On hot days, drape or prop clothes overhead.

Water: Never drink seawater. If you have a raincoat, detach the hood and use it to catch and store rainwater. Plastic bags and rain boots also make excellent containers. Always rinse them with the first raindrops to wash away salt from sea spray.

Food: A boat’s shadow can attract fish. To catch them, string jewelry into a lure. (Pieces from a smartphone can work too.) Shoelaces or unraveled sock threads can serve as fishing line. Save any uneaten bits for bait.

Rescue: Relax and find familiar shapes in clouds to ease boredom—and keep an eye out for planes and ships. If you spot one, use a pocket mirror or a smartphone screen to reflect sunlight. The signal can be seen up to 10 miles away on a sunny day.

For more sea-survival tips, head to the Howorths’ website, thehoworths.com.

WARNING: Use these methods as last resorts. If they don’t work, direct your complaints to ididnotsurvive@popsci.com.

This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Popular Science_._