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How Long Can You Survive in the Ocean

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I was never lost at sea, but I got to thinking one day about how long I would be able to survive if I ever was stranded in the ocean. Surviving in the ocean is completely different from surviving in the wilderness and I was curious about how long an average, healthy person would be able to survive in those elements.

So I did some research and this article explains a little bit about how long you would be able to survive and what survival tools/skills would be helpful.

How long can you survive in the ocean? With just floating, you could survive in the ocean for upwards to 1-3 days without no food or water. However, people that have been stranded in a boat have survived in the ocean for upwards to 13 months.


3 Things Every Boat Needs to Have On Board

  1. Survival Kit – A survival kit could be what saves you if you get stranded in your boat while out at sea. View the price of my recommended one on Amazon.
  2. First Aid Kit – A first aid kit is very important. If you don’t have a kit on your boat already, get one as soon as possible. View the price for my recommended first aid kit on Amazon.
  3. Flare Gun – Being able to survive in the ocean is worth nothing if people can’t find you. A flare gun is a must have on any boat. Here’s a good one on Amazon.

Even though it’s rarer to be lost in the ocean than it is to be lost in the wilderness, it is definitely possible and has happened many times. If you fish at sea a lot or are just a casual boater, its very important that you have a plan on how you’re going to survive in the worst case scenario.

Your physical condition, mental health, ability to deal with stress and your problem solving skills all play a role in how long you could survive in the ocean. Being lost in the ocean is an eerie thing. The middle of the ocean can be quiet, contrary to what you might think. Even though this might sound relaxing at first, it’s actually quite nerve racking.

Surviving in the Ocean

When you’re lost in the ocean, you may think you have an abundant supply of water, but that’s not true, if anything its the exact opposite. Many people think that if you have nothing else to drink, sea water is the best option, because hey, it’s water and its better than becoming dehydrated.

But instead, you should never drink sea water. Not only will it make you sick, but it will also make you even more dehydrated and you’ll ultimately die sooner than if you just didn’t drink any water at all.

The length of time you’ll be able to survive in the ocean primarily depends on the available gear you have in addition to many other factors. For example, if you have a floatation device, a basic fishing line with a hook, and something to catch water with, you could potentially survive in the ocean for months.

Without a floatation device, such as a raft, your chances of surviving in the ocean for long periods of time are severely limited. Surviving in this way will depend on many things, some will include how long you can go without food, whether or not you can find a way to catch water, and if you know how to float.

A healthy human can go about 3-4 days with out water. But this will depend on how much energy you’re going to be burning when surviving in the ocean. That’s why if you can learn to float, you’ll burn a lot less energy than if you’re just treading water.

Finding water will be the biggest determining factor on whether you survive or not. And if you’re wondering on how you’re going to find water while being stranded in the ocean, go here to skip to that part of the article.

How Long Can You Survive in the Ocean Without Any Gear

Putting it rather bluntly, if you were stranded in the ocean with no supplies, food, water, or floatation device, you would not survive long at all. In the right conditions, you may be able to survive upwards to 3 days.

However, surviving in the ocean for three days with no gear is only possible under the right conditions. If you were stranded in icy cold water, then you’ll only live for about 15 minutes.

Even being stranded in water as high as 70 degrees can be extremely dangerous. Hypothermia can occur in only a few hours in water as warm as 60 or 70 degrees.

How Long Can You Survive in the Ocean If You Have Survival Gear

You’ll have a much better chance of survival if you have a some basic gear along with a floatation device. With something to catch fish, water, and a raft of sorts, you can literally survive for months.

If you were stranded in your boat, then you would have an even higher chance of survival. By being stranded in a boat, you probably have some sort of survival equipment in addition to a first aid kit. Being stranded in a boat also gives you some extra layer of protection other than treading water or floating in a raft.

A man by the name of Salvador Alvarenga spent 13-14 months drifting in the ocean on his small fishing boat. Salvador Alvarenga was able to use his fishing supplies to catch food and he collected rain water to drink. Although the story of Salvador Alvarenga is extremely rare, it does show us that it is possible to be able to survive in the ocean for a very long time, giving that we have the right supplies.

Being able to survive long periods of time in the ocean also depends on your problem solving skills. If you were lost at sea in a boat or a raft, you would need to be prepared to fix anything that goes wrong with it. A small leak can be detrimental when stranded in the ocean.

How to Find Water in the Ocean

Finding water in the ocean is one of the hardest things you would have to do in order to stay alive. At first, this sounds contradicting. When you’re out on the ocean, you are literally surrounded by miles and miles of water. However, like I stated previously in the article, salt water will actually make you sick and will make you dehydrated faster.

If you’re just treading water or floating, finding water will extremely hard if not impossible. When stranded in the ocean, there are only a few water sources. Here are a few:

  1. Rain.
  2. The aqueous fluid found along the spine and in the eyes of large fish.

If you were stranded in the ocean without any supplies, then it would be very difficult to utilize these water sources. If you are lucky enough to be able to get your hands on a fish, eat the eyes, but no other part of the fish. When you’re in need of water, the last thing you want to do is eat. Eating makes your body burn precious energy to digest the food.

If it starts raining, try using parts of your clothes to catch water. This is most likely going to prove unsuccessful, so try floating on your back and opening your mouth, this will let you catch a little bit of rain. You won’t get much water, but it’s better than nothing.

If you’re stranded in a raft or boat, then finding water will be a bit easier, especially if you have some basic equipment. Use the same methods as stated above to get water.

  1. Using anything you can to catch rainwater. If you have more than one thing with you that will be able to hold water, use it! Try to collect as much water as possible, you never know when it’s going to rain again.
  2. Catch fish and eat the eyes. If you have a knife, cut the fish in half to get the fluid along the spine. If you’re having trouble finding water, be sure to not drink any other liquids in the fish. These other fluids are rich in protein and fat and will use up more of your reserve water in digestion than they supply.

How to Find Food in the Ocean

You should only start thinking of eating once you have enough water. The human body can go up to 3 weeks without food, so finding food is not the biggest issue at hand.

Being able to find water will determine if you need to find food. Once you have a solid water source, such as water you collected and stored, now its time to get food.

Here’s some food sources you can keep in mind:

  1. Fishing. Once you have caught a fish, use the guts for bait.
  2. Catching sea birds. They can sometimes be easier to catch than fish.
  3. Use your clothing or a net to catch plankton.
  4. Seaweed.

Fish as a Food Source

If properly prepared, just about every saltwater fish is edible. If you’re wanting to be safe, try catching and eating smaller fish. Be sure however to become familiar with the pufferfish and it’s relatives in the Tetraodontidae family and avoid eating them.

Seabirds as a Food Source

Seabirds are a proven food source and can sometimes actually be caught easier than fish. Survivors have reported capturing birds by using baited hooks and just by grabbing them. If you catch a bird, make sure you skin the bird instead of plucking the feathers off. Skinning the bird will remove the oil glands, which is important.

Seabirds can be eaten raw or cooked, but in an ocean survival situation, will most likely be eaten raw. Eat the bird or preserve it right after you’re done skinning it. Any parts of the bird you don’t eat, be sure to use as bait to fish with. In a survival situation, everything can benefit you in some way or another.

Plankton as a Food Source

Plankton is very nutritious and can actually prevent scurvy. Scurvy is a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. The best time of day to collect plan ton is at night when it comes to the surface. During the day plankton can be found deeper, thus making it hard to get to. To collect plankton, use a net of some kind to collect the plankton off of the surface of the water. If you don’t have an actual net, use some of your clothing, like a shirt.

Seaweed as a Food Source

Seaweed, also known as algae, can be found on most oceans. In fact, seaweed is used in many Japanese dishes. Seaweed is rich in proteins, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. Keep in mind that most seaweed is edible, however, the green or blue algae found in freshwater pools can be highly piousness.

When collecting seaweed, you can dry them in the sun to make them a little easier to eat.

How to Float on Your Stomach

Floating will conserve more energy than if you’re constantly trying to tread water. Floating on your stomach is also a great option if your caught in a storm and don’t have any raft or floatation device. Follow the steps below to float on your stomach:

  1. Take a deep breath and slowly lean forward in the water while putting your face in the water. Your head should remain halfway above water and halfway under.
  2. Spread your legs apart a little bit.
  3. Arch your back slightly, and push your stomach down.
  4. Relax. Let your arms and legs just float.
  5. Exhale slowly while your face is underwater. Think of blowing bubbles.
  6. When you need to take another breath, slowly turn your head to the side and take a breath. Then put your head back into the water and repeat.

How to Float on Your Back

Floating on your back is also a great option if you don’t have any floatation device. Floating on you back is a bit more comfortable, but is a little harder to get the hang of. Follow the steps below to float on your back:

  1. Take a deep breath and slowly lean back into the water while submerging the back of your head under the water. Your head should remain halfway above water and halfway under with your ears under the water.
  2. Spread your legs apart a little bit.
  3. Arch your back slightly, and push your stomach up.
  4. Relax. Let your arms and legs just float.
  5. Breath calmly and slowly.

Ultimately, if you ever get stranded out at sea, make sure you stay calm. Panicking will never help. Any person who has survived being stranded at sea was able to do so because they kept calm and thought through things.


I hope you enjoyed this article, if you have, be sure to share it!

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