Emergency Situations

Luck Favors the Prepared

I have often heard the so-called Rule Of 3syou can survive without oxygen or from severe bleeding for about 3 minutes, survive exposure to extreme heat or cold for up to 3 hours, survive without water for 3 days, and survive without food for 3 weeks. I've never needed to test the accuracy of these figures. I've always gotten lucky, but as Branch Rickey's truism says, luck is not the same as fate.


When planning your thru-paddle, identify all possible bail-out points so that if an emergency or unexpected situation arises, you know how to get off the water and get what you need, whether it be a hotel room, a campsite, food, fresh water, or emergency help.

Sit, Think, Observe, Plan (STOP)

According to many survival guides, when people realize they are lost or otherwise in danger they often pick a direction at random and start running. To combat this tendency to panic, people are encouraged to remember the acronym STOP.


SIT:  As soon as you realize you are lost or in trouble somehow, stop what you are doing and sit down.


THINK:  Once sitting down, think about the situation. Where are you? What is the problem? What are the possible solutions to the problem? What are the pros and cons of each option?


OBSERVE:  Assess your location. Is this area dangerous? Is there shelter and water? What is the weather like? What time is it? Will you need to camp there for the night?


PLAN:  Based upon your assessments of the situation and your location, determine a course of action. Remain positive and take care of your immediate needs first: food, water, heat, shelter, getting dry, et cetera.

Cell Phones ≠ Safety

People like to bring cell phones into the wilderness because it makes them feel safe. But cell phones don't make anyone saferjust the oppositehaving a cell phone gives people a false sense of security and they become more likely to take risks or do things they otherwise would not do. By believing cell phones are a safety net, people take dangerous leaps.


That said, on Florida's Atlantic coast there is always a cell signal if you need it. On the Gulf coast cell coverage can be spotty. The two places where you would likely encounter trouble and need to call someone are also the places with no cell receptionthe Big Bend and Everglades National Park.


However, consider the big picture: during a thru-paddle, an emergency situation is most likely to occur out on the water, in heavy surf and breaking waves, where you won't be able to dial a phone as you struggle to keep from capsizing, even if the phone could withstand the salt water.

 Radio Beacons & Satellite Phones

Since cell phones won't help you in a real emergency, what about satellite phones or radio beacons?  Like cell phones, I worry that a satellite phone or emergency beacon will give people a false sense of security and become more likely to take risks or do things they otherwise would not do. These devices are a safety net, and with a net, people take dangerous leaps.

So I'm on the fence, and I'm hesitant to recommend carrying an emergency radio beacon or a satellite phone because Dan and I did not carry one. We both carried emergency flares, however, because they are a legal requirement for all boats in Florida.

Emergency Rudder Repair

It's possible, even likely, that one of your rudder cables will snap during a long trip like the CT. It will inevitably happen while you are in the water, not conveniently on land. To reach shore may require you to paddle through heavy surf or breakers where you'll need that rudder.


As a quick fix on the water, carry two stainless steel rope/wire clamps, like the one pictured here, in your deckbag. They are inexpensive and can be found at any hardware store. They can be applied while bobbing in the water and will hold the cable together until you reach camp (or longer).