Category Archives: Swimming

Using Your Pack in Water


To Do Today:

  • PT – Cardio – Rest // Strength – Powerlift series (heavy/hatemax)
  • Waterproof your ruck/pack with a 1-day patrol load

Water Survival With a Pack

If packed properly, your pack will float and is your key piece of equipment for staying afloat and overcoming water obstacles. If contents are properly waterproofed, the pack can support you (with a combat load) in the water. Buoyed up by a waterproofed pack, you will eventually emerge from the water with all your equipment (e.g., boots, helmet, flak jacket, weapon, survival items) ready to rock.

Your pack floats based on a scientific principle known as Archimedes’ principle. This principle states that an object submerged in a liquid is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the liquid displaced (pushed aside) by the object. If the weight of the displaced liquid is greater than the weight of the object, the object floats. If the weight of the displaced liquid is less than the weight of the object, the object sinks. For this reason, you should not try to hold yourself or your equipment any higher out of the water than they would naturally float; doing so wastes both energy and body heat.

Preparing Equipment

Before packing your pack, you must prepare your gear/equipment. Tape or pad all sharp edges and equipment corners. Ideally, your gear/equipment is placed in plastic bags and the plastic bag is then placed inside a waterproof bag. Waterproof bags are not completely water tight; henceforth, the added protection of first wrapping the gear/equipment in a plastic bag, then placing the plastic bag inside the waterproof bag. Large plastic bags (e.g., trash bags) work well for bulky equipment (e.g., sleeping bags, field jackets, shelter halves, gas masks). Small plastic bags work best for small items (e.g., shaving gear). If items like a gas mask or weapon must be carried outside the pack, cover it with a separate purpose-made waterproof bag.

Tying Waterproof/Plastic Bags

Try to remove the excess air from the waterproof/plastic bag before securing the bag’s opening. If filled with air, the bag can burst if pressed from the outside. Perform the following steps to tie a waterproof/plastic bag:


Packing the Pack

Place filled and tied bags inside the pack. Carefully handle sharp items (e.g., tent pegs, poles) to prevent puncturing the bag. Place items in the pack in order of expected use. Close the pack and its compartments. Attach sleeping mats or bags as high as possible on the outside of the pack.

Swimming With the Pack

A useful technique for propelling yourself forward while wearing a pack is the combat travel stroke. This technique allows you to float nearly horizontal and to propel yourself forward with bicycle-style kicks and breast stroke-style arm sweeps. To execute the combat travel stroke:

  • Body position. Keep the upper part of your body prone to the water, let your legs dangle horizontally, and keep your face up.


  • Arm action. Extend your hands out in front of your waist. Sweep your arms slightly downward and back 90 degrees to propel your body through the water. Move your hands back to the front of your waist. Repeat.
  • Leg action.  Continuously move your legs in a bicycle-like movement, bringing your knees up high and step out.
  • Breathing Keep your face out of the water during the stroke, and breathe freely.

An alternative is to remove your pack and swim with in front of you.

Abandoning Ship


To Do Today:

  • PT – Cardio – 1hr run // Strength – Back and Shoulder group / abs.


Abandoning Ship

The decision to abandon ship is usually very difficult. In some instances, people have perished in their life raft while their abandoned vessel managed to stay afloat. Other cases indicate that people waited too long to successfully get clear of a floundering boat.

Once the decision is made:

  • Put on all available waterproof clothing, including gloves, headgear, and life jacket.
  • Collect items for a survival kit.
  • Note present position.
  • Send out MAYDAY message.
  • Launch life raft attached to ship.
  • Launch dinghy attached to life raft.
  • Try to enter life raft directly from the boat (if impossible, use minimal swimming effort to get on board).
  • Don’t forget the EPIRB (emergency position indicator radio beacon).
  • Get a safe distance from the sinking vessel.
  • Collect all available flotsam. The most unlikely articles can be adapted for use under survival conditions.
  • Keep warm by huddling bodies together. Keep dry, especially your feet.
  • Stream a sea anchor.
  • Arrange lookout watches.
  • Use flares only on skipper’s orders when there is a real chance of them being seen.
  • Arrange for collecting rainwater. Ration water to maximum one-half quart per person per day, issued in small increments. Do not drink seawater or urine. If water is in short supply, eat only sweets from survival rations.

Be Calm

In emergency situations, crew and passengers look to a leader in an almost unconscious way to determine their own level of anxiety. If the captain projects a calm and confident attitude, the crew will be reassured and since an anxious crew means poor judgment and performance, a captain should do all he or she can to keep the crew calm. The idea here is not to lie to your crew, and certainly not to fake a fearless, macho manner, going down with the ship is a pretty dumb plan. The idea is that, by maintaining a calm, deliberate attitude in the face of a dire situation, you can help your crew remain effective and perhaps help save lives. If you need to fake that attitude to some degree, so be it.

Emergency Communications

When trouble strikes, there are many ways to communicate your distress and seek help. Use your VHF or single-sideband radio and follow the procedures for distress.

There are three levels of priority communications: distress, urgent, and safety, identified by MAYDAY, PAN-PAN, and SECURITE. Panicked radio communications can confuse a rescue effort. Learn the proper procedures. Try to stay calm.

Why Ships Sink

Ships and boats are made to float on top of the water, but there are quite a few things that can go wrong to turn your boat into a swamp. Taking on water is inevitable — large waves often break over the sides, and tiny leaks are common. This water will usually find its way to the lowest point of a boat — the bilge area. For this reason, boats are equipped with bilge pumps to usher the water back out once it’s reached a certain level. Boats often sink while docked, but unless you’re like Sonny Crockett and you live on your boat, that’s not a life-threatening scenario.

Common reasons a boat might sink at sea are:

  • Low transom — The transom is the flat vertical surface that forms the rear, or stern end, of the boat. For outboard vessels, the motor is mounted onto the transom. For larger inboard vessels, you’ll find the boat’s name on the transom. The idea is for the transom to be high enough that it won’t take on water. Sometimes, simple design flaws can leave your transom too low. Improper weight distribution can also lower a transom to the point that waves can come over it and flood the deck. To keep this from happening, don’t store all your heavy gear in the stern of the boat. Scuba gear, coolers, fishing equipment and bait should all be distributed evenly along the ship to keep the transom at a safe height. You should also never anchor from the stern side — it could pull the transom down even further.
  • Missing drain plugs — This one seems like a no-brainer, but boats sink all the time because of missing drain plugs. When a boat travels forward, the entire vessel sits higher on the water than it does at rest, with the front higher than the rear. Water collected from waves or sea spray is allowed to exit the boat through a drain located at the rear of the boat at about deck level. Once you’re traveling forward, the boat tilts up and the water will flow toward the drain and back out. The problem arises when the captain forgets to stop the drain once the boat is at rest with a small, watertight plug. When the boat stops moving, it sinks lower and begins to take on water through the drain. Carry extra drain plugs and try keeping one near the ignition as a reminder.
  • Cooling system leaks — Boat engines are water cooled, pumping about 30 gallons of water through the system per minute for a 300 horsepower engine. If a hose bursts or isn’t tight enough, this water can collect in the bilge and once again, you could find yourself sinking. Check for corrosion or obvious splits and breaks in the hoses and fittings of the cooling system before you depart. Replace anything that looks suspect, and you should be fine.
  • Navigation error — Simply put, this means striking an object with your boat. It could be rocks, ice, reefs, logs, or anything else large enough to do damage to the hull, or body, of your boat. The best way to combat this is by being careful. Slow down if you see debris and be especially cautious after storms, which can wash in a great deal of foreign objects. If you see something floating, there’s a good chance there’s more under the surface. If it sounds like you’ve hit something, stop the boat immediately and check outside and below for holes or leaks. Stick that plug in the drain and click forward to read about what safety equipment you should have on board.

Boat and Ship Safety Equipment

Having the proper safety equipment on board is just as important, if not more, than being a well-schooled captain. Even the best captain doesn’t have a shot at surviving a sinking ship without a life vest or raft. The first piece of gear you’ll want to have in working order on any boat or ship is a bilge pump. Unwanted water is supposed to drain from the deck through openings on the side called scuppers, but oftentimes the water finds its way to the bilge.

The bilge pump sucks up the water from the floor of the bilge area and pumps it out through a hose. There are many types of bilge pumps and it’s important to get one that’s sufficient for the size of your vessel. If a boat has a 2-inch hole a foot below the waterline, nearly 80 gallons of water can pour in per minute. Once that same hole is 3 feet down, the flow can increase to more than 135 gallons per minute [source:]. Many boats sink because the pump they have can’t get water out faster than it’s coming in, or because the pump is damaged. Regular maintenance of the bilge pump is vital to keeping your boat on the water.

The majority of power boats shorter than 35 feet either have too few pumps or not enough battery power to run them. Most sailboats, regardless of size, have only one pump on board. Bilge pumps are prone to failure because they’re so overworked and sometimes improperly maintained. Experts recommend a backup pump for every two you have on board, just to be on the safe side. You should also have several manual pumps in case of an extreme emergency. Bilge pumps are typically triggered to turn on automatically by a float switch. Once water rises to a certain point, the switch floats up and turns on — crisis averted. Oil, sludge and debris can affect the pumps’ ability to operate, so keeping the bilge and pump clean is important.

Life vests and flotation suits are also mandatory for any boater. In fact, at least one life vest per passenger is required by law. Keep the vests handy but secure so they don’t have an opportunity to go overboard. Flotation suits are a little more advanced than your average life vest. They’re full body suits, with built-in shoes that keep you afloat and insulated — even in icy waters — depending on your needs and how much money you can spend. Top-of-the-line floatation suits that will protect you from hypothermia run you about $1,300 to $1,600 [source:].

Life rafts have come a long way in recent years. Modern rafts have canopy covers, paddles, insulated flooring, bailing buckets, ladders and a variety of emergency items — flares, water pouches, signaling mirrors, reflective tape, fishing kits and much more. They’re packaged with all the bells and whistles in cases that look like luggage and are self-inflating. But a good life raft isn’t cheap. A deluxe four-person model costs about $4,000 — well worth the price if you ever need to use one.

Life rafts are packed by the manufacturer and require regular servicing to ensure usability. Unfortunately, even the most expensive life rafts aren’t always leak-proof. The ocean is tough on a small vessel, and you may end up with water coming into your safe haven. All modern rafts come with pumps and repair kits for this reason.

Good Tips for Sinking Ships

You’ve maintained your boat inside and out. The bilge pump is pumping, the motor is humming and you’ve steered clear of all rocks. There isn’t an iceberg in sight, there’s no Celine Dion playing — all is well. Enter Mother Nature — a storm comes along, sending your vessel crashing into a shallow reef and before you know it, your boat is sinking.

If you find a hole below deck and you’re taking on water, the first thing you need to do is try and plug it. Your goal here is to be able to pump out more water than is coming in. Be creative — use cabinet doors, table tops, seat cushions or sails. Start with the largest hole if there’s more than one. The last resort in any sinking scenario is to abandon ship. Your boat is safer and more visible than a life raft.

Try and stay calm and listen to the captain’s directions. If you’re the captain, assign jobs to your passengers. Someone should immediately gather all flotation devices and get the life raft ready. While others block the holes, radio for help and give your exact location coordinates. Have another passenger gather up emergency items for the raft, including:

  • flashlights
  • flares
  • fresh water
  • food rations
  • mirror for signaling
  • Sunscreen
  • Batteries
  • radio
  • matches
  • first-aid kit

If everyone remains calm and works together, you have a chance of keeping the boat above water or safely making it into the life raft. The captain’s evacuation notice should only come when it’s certain that the boat is going down.

If you’re on a cruise ship, it’s even more important to stay calm. Panic leads to pushing, shoving and trampling, which can lead to other injuries, like broken bones or concussion. Studies have shown that 70 percent of victims of a maritime accident are bewildered and have impaired reasoning, 15 percent exhibit irrational behaviors and only 15 percent stay calm and alert [source:]. Larger boats take longer to sink, so there should be plenty of time to get everyone into the lifeboats. Modern lifeboats are large, often fully covered and sometimes come equipped with motors. Once full, they’re lowered into the water mechanically by large davits that hang over the edge of the ship. The International Maritime Organization’s guidelines require that all cruise ships be able to get passengers lowered into the ocean in lifeboats within 30 minutes of passengers being gathered on deck.

When a large ship sinks it will probably tilt, making it difficult to make your way to the deck. Hold handrails and go slowly to avoid slipping. Also keep an eye out for objects that could be sliding around. The last thing you want is to be near evacuation and get plowed by a grand piano. Try to stay behind large, fixed objects for protection. You’ll know it’s time to evacuate when you hear the signal from the captain — seven short horn blasts followed by a long one. The crew of the ship should be the last ones off the boat and assist each passenger in getting to their preassigned lifeboat.

Water Survival


To Do Today:

  • PT – Cardio – 1hr run // Strength – Arm group / abs.
  • Swim 30 minutes, any combination of stroke.
  • Review The American Red Cross Swimming and Water Safety Manual.
  • Schedule an American Red Cross CPR course or renewal if not currently certified.

Many survival/SERE situations start in the water. You face a variety of potential water emergencies whenever you cross any expanse of  water: ships and watercraft can sink; aircraft can crash into the sea; or you can accidentally fall into the water. However, there are some basic precautionary measures you can take to protect your safety and reduce your chances of  becoming a water casualty.

Determine the following information as soon as you board any type of vessel. Knowing the following information may save your life.

  • How many life preservers and lifeboats/rafts are on board?
  • Where are the life preservers and lifeboats/rafts located?
  • What type of unit survival equipment is on board?
  • Are individual survival kits issued to each person on board?
  • How much food, water, and medicine do the survival kits contain? When was the last time the contents were inspected for proper quantities and shelf life expiration?
  • Is there sufficient survival equipment available for the number of personnel?
  • How many other personnel are there on board, and where are they located?
  • What are the egress procedures for the ship, boat, watercraft or aircraft?

Abandoning Ship/Large Vessel

When you embark on a large ship, you may receive abandoning ship instructions from the crew. This is not always the case on commercial vessels so be aware of the general layout and location of emergency equipment. If notified to abandon ship, report to your designated assembly area (if any) and put on a life preserver (if any). DO NOT inflate the life preserver until you are clear of the ship. Torn life  preservers will not inflate and inflated life preservers can block you, and those behind you, from exiting the ship. A flotation device that has been inflated may also burst if you jump from a significant height. We will be discussing staying afloat with and without a life preserver tomorrow.

DO NOT remove your clothing, boots, or shoes before abandoning ship. Your trousers and other clothing may be the only flotation devices available if your life preserver is faulty or becomes damaged, and your clothes can provide some insulation from the cold water. If you have a hat/soft cover, place it in a pocket for later use. Head cover is good protection against sunburn caused by the sun’s rays reflecting off the water.

Jettisoning Equipment

Equipment should be kept properly packed and waterproofed in case you have to abandon ship. If entering the water from a height greater than 30 feet, wearing a pack or other equipment could cause injury.

If you are wearing a helmet, upon impact with the water, the helmet will “cup” air inside of it. The chin strap may also create a “hanging effect” as you submerge from the force of the fall. Therefore, you should remove your helmet and gas mask before abandoning ship.

If you are unable to maintain buoyancy due to the amount of equipment secured to your pack and body, then jettisoning some of your equipment may become necessary. Equipment that you should always retain include freshwater, first aid kit, soft cover, and embarked survival kit. An embarked survival kit will typically include first aid items, water purification tablets or drops, fire starting equipment, signalling items (e.g., flashlight, strobe light, chemlights), food procurement items, and shelter items. Other items in a survival kit include sunburn lotion and lip balm, knife, goggles/sunglasses, plastic bag, matches and lighter, mirror.

Abandoning Ship Technique

When abandoning ship, use caution. Use the following technique when abandoning ship without your gear:

  • Place your hands on their opposite shoulders, forming a crisscross pattern:

Cross Arms

  • Step to the edge of the ship’s deck and check the water below for debris or survivors.
  • If the water is clear, look straight ahead and prepare to jump.
  • If the water is not clear, move to another location.
  • DO NOT hold your nose as you abandon ship. If you do hold your nose, the force of impact into the water could jar your arm and hand and cause you to break your nose.
  • Step off the side of the ship with a smooth, 30-inch stride.
  • DO NOT DIVE OFF THE SHIP. DO NOT LOOK DOWN AT THE WATER. LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD (HORIZON). Looking down at the water can render you unconscious or cause injuries upon impact.
  • Bring your trailing leg forward during the fall and cross trailing leg behind leading leg.
  • Keep your head parallel to the water’s surface until hitting the water.
  • You should remain in the abandon ship position until your descent into the water has almost stopped.
  • However, the weight imbalances in your body may cause you to be in a “J” shape under the water.

Once your downward motion has ceased, your feet may be parallel with the ocean bottom or  you may be nearly inverted with your feet over your head. To counteract potential disorientation, you should pause briefly and allow the natural buoyancy of your torso to bring your body to a nearly upright position.

Floating debris can cause hazards. Therefore, you should swim upward, extending one arm (hand is shaped as a fist) upward to feel for obstructions. If you encounter debris, try to push it away or surface in a different location.


Swim away from the ship. Looking back will slow your movement away from the area. Remember, your objective is to leave the area as quickly as possible because:

  • Equipment and debris may be falling from or spilling out of the ship.
  • Additional casualties can occur if individuals abandoning the ship fall on top of swimmers already in the water.
  • Swimmers close to the sinking ship may get pulled underneath the water by the suctioning effect of the ship as it goes under.

Modified Abandoning Ship Technique

When abandoning ship while wearing full combat gear (weapon, helmet, and a properly waterproofed pack), additional safety considerations must be observed. The modified abandoning ship technique is used while wearing full combat gear and exiting from a height LESS than 30 feet. WARNING: When exiting from a height greater than 30 feet, remove your helmet and pack. Fasten the  helmet to the pack or place it inside the pack before jettisoning. If jettisoning gear from the ship or aircraft, check the water below for survivors before throwing the gear forward of the intended jump area. Once in the water, retrieve your gear and swim out of the area.

Modified JumpJump with Pack

  • Place your weapon over one shoulder, muzzle down, with the weapon parallel to your side.
  • Place your arm and hand along the weapon and hold it to your side.
  • Take your free hand and place it on top of your helmet to prevent neck/spinal injury from the force of the water pulling upward on the helmet as your body enters the water. An alternate method is to place your weapon over one shoulder, muzzle down, with the  weapon parallel to your side. Reach across your body and grasp the sling of your weapon and hold it to your body. Take your free hand and place it on top of your helmet.
  • Step to the edge of the platform and check the water below for debris and survivors. If the  water is clear, look straight ahead and prepare to jump. If the water is not clear, move to another location.
  • Step off the side of the platform with a smooth, 30-inch stride.
  • DO NOT DIVE OFF THE SHIP, DO  NOT LOOK DOWN AT THE WATER, LOOK STRAIGHT AHEAD (HORIZON). Looking down at the water can render you unconscious or cause injury upon impact.
  • Bring your trailing leg forward during the fall. Cross your trailing leg behind your leading leg.
  • Keep your head parallel to the water’s surface until hitting the water.
  • You should remain in the modified abandoning ship position until your descent into the water has almost stopped.
  • The buoyancy of a properly waterproofed pack will immediately pull you to the surface.
  • Once you break the water’s surface, unsling your weapon and loop the sling over your head. You may have to seesaw the sling so as to ensure the sling passes between your helmet and pack. Once over your head, loop the sling around your neck with the weapon aligned in the center of your body, muzzle down.

Lean back on your pack and perform the combat travel stroke to exit the area. NOTE: You may also remove the pack, maintain contact with the pack, and use it as a flotation device. Remain horizontal in the water with your pack under your chest. Perform a breast stroke kick to exit the danger area.

Surfacing/Swimming with Burning Oil

After you have abandoned ship, rise to the surface but remember that fuel from sinking ships or downed aircraft will float on the surface of the water. It is important to move clear of the floating fuel by swimming away from the ship or aircraft as soon as possible. Either swim upwind (into the wind) of the ship/aircraft or swim against the current. Either method allows you to move away from the fuel and the wind/current will push the fuel past you.

To properly execute a surface burning oil swim:

  • Extend your arms overhead as far as possible and wave your arms back and forth vigorously to splash a hole while moving upward.

Splash as long as possible to push burning fuel away from the surfacing area. Use your arms and hands to sweep away fuel and debris.4

  • Kick your legs in a constant breast stroke kick.
  • Extend your arms (palms outward) forward on the surface, arms shoulder- width apart.
  • Pull your hands in and back toward the chest.
  • Stop your hands in front of your face and rotate them so that your palms face forward (roughly halfway out of the water).


  • Sweep your arms forward to a full extension at the shoulder width. This splashes debris, oil, or burning liquids aside. To reduce the chance of fatigue, use two short splashes to the front to extend the path.

1Repeat the preceding step as necessary while swimming clear of the area.