Cruise Survival Skills: Falling Overboard

survival
Coast Guard News/Flickr

Over the weekend, a passenger sailing from Stockholm to Helsinki survived seven hours in the frigid Baltic Sea after falling overboard. That he accidentally fell off and lived to tell about it is unusual; most don’t. While its something that does not happen often, we checked in with the Coast Guard on what to do to increase your odds of survival.

We begin on the Baltic Queen ferry just off the Finnish island of Aland. The water is a chilling 16ºC (60ºF) when a 36-year-old Estonian man falls overboard on Friday night. His absence is not discovered until the next day when the ferry docks. Security cameras show the man falling from the vessel and enable Finnish sea rescue to find him two hours later. Suffering from hypothermia, with a body temperature of 26º C (78ºF), he should be dead.

Actually, he is lucky that he did not die immediately when hitting the water. “When a person falls in the cold water, their body responds to the initial shock with an instantaneous gasp for air, which if their head is underwater may cause the person to swallow water and drown,” says U.S. Coast Guard Safety Specialist Walt Taylor in Coast Guard Cold Water Safety Tips.

The best way to survive falling overboard? Don’t.Most stories of passengers going overboard do not end well. But on a big ship cruise, falling off is difficult to do. In “Death By Cruise Ship,” we tag suicide by cruise ship – alcohol/drug-induced shenanigans close to the edge of the ship and sitting/standing on the guard rail of a balcony stateroom – as common ways to fall off, all of which are avoidable.

But what if for one reason or another you fell off, did not die on impact and wound up in the ocean, watching your cruise ship sail away. What to do? Experts recommend treading water, screaming and waving your arms frantically. The best odds of being rescued are right when it happens and someone might happen to see you.

If the ship sails off without you? “Floating on your back takes the least energy. Lie on your back in the water, spread your arms and legs, and arch your back. By controlling your breathing in and out, your face will always be out of the water and you may even sleep in this position for short periods,” says WildernessSurvival.

Seattle’s new Hot Tub Boats: swingin’ in the rain

seattle hot tub rentalI live in Seattle. So I can state with authority that out here if you want hipster street cred you’ll be rocking at least some sartorial remnant of the ’70s — be it a pair of groovy shades, nut-hugger jeans, a polyester dress or booty cut-offs.

What else is reminiscent of the ’70s? Hot tubs, baby. And now, chilly (but oh so cool) Seattleites and visitors alike can have a relaxing retro outing thanks to a fab new indulgence: Hot Tub Boats. You and up to six friends (kids count) can bob around scenic Lake Union in a wooden, diesel boiler-fueled floating hot tub boat with full steering capacity and a throttle. All boats come with coolers, locked dry storage, water jets and safety equipment. They are also United States Coast Guard standard approved.

The boats are also available for longer-term rentals and purchase, and can be delivered to alternate locations such as Lake Washington for an additional fee. The company is anticipating a May launch.

Alas, getting nekkid and sipping Lancers is not permitted; we’re not animals here in Seattle. And everyone knows drinking and boating (don’t) mix. Even though you’ll have to leave the booze at home and cover up your bits, there’s still something about steamy water, nippy weather and floating on a lake that feels a little bit naughty. Far out.


Coast Guard wants your vote on extreme videos

Coast GuardThe U.S. Coast Guard has released its Top Ten Rescue Videos and is counting down to 2012 asking fans to vote for a favorite.

The series of videos feature a variety of what the Coast Guard does every day including rescues of people at sea, capturing pirates, catching a cocaine-laden drug sub in the Caribbean Sea and more.

In one video, Coast Guard aircrews coach a pilot on how to ditch his Cessna 310 aircraft and then rescued him from the ocean northeast of Hawaii.

All 10 videos are on line now and Facebook fans have until January 13 to pick their favorite.

Vote for your favorite video by going to the Coast Guard’s Facebook Page or stop by the Coast Guard YouTube Channel.

Here’s a compilation of all ten top Coast Guard Videos of 2011.



Flickr photo by US Coast Guard

Unidentified Falling Object seen over Loch Ness

bolide, Loch NessScottish police are scratching their heads over a mysterious occurrence at Loch Ness this weekend, The Scotsman newspaper reports.

On Saturday night several eyewitnesses saw an object falling into or near the loch. Some describe it as a white light, others as a blue light. People said it was a balloon, or an ultralight, or a parachute. Some people said it didn’t fall at all, merely passed over the tree line.

In other words, nobody has the faintest idea what they saw.

So many people called emergency services, however, that it’s certain something strange was going on in the skies, and the police, the coastguard, a lifeboat crew, and the Royal Air Force went in search of it. Several hours of looking in the water and along the shore turned up nothing.

So what was it? Possibly a meteor. Meteors often cause UFO flaps. Large ones called “fireballs” or “bolides” can light up the sky and even change color as their various minerals get ionized from the heat of entering our atmosphere. Since they streak across the night sky so quickly, it’s hard to judge distance or location. This photo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, shows a bolide. It’s not a photo of whatever was over Loch Ness.

Sadly, there were no reported sightings of Nessie this weekend. Some people say the poor Loch Ness Monster may be extinct.

Coast Guard rescues unwitting drunk man one mile offshore, drifting on pool floatie


You heard right: The United States Coast Guard yesterday rescued a Florida man who got drunk, climbed into an inflatable swimming pool ring (the kind little kids use), passed out, and then drifted a mile offshore from Belleair Beach on the Gulf of Mexico. Fortunately, a concerned boater spotted what he thought was debris and came for a closer look, then called the Coast Guard to report what he thought was a dead body. Despite boat horns and loud shouting, the intoxicated man did not respond. Jerry Whipple, age 48, was both dazed and confused as the Coast Guard rescued him and transported him back to the nearest hospital for a closer look.

Mr. Whipple was later released, although he might still be charged with operating a seafaring craft while under the influence. That’s one small step for the Coast Guard . . . and one mile-wide leap for Florida.