June 3, 2016

Man treads water for 20 hours — no life jacket — and is rescued.

The man had already been in the water for 8 hours when his wife notified the Coast Guard, and it was 12 more hours before they found him. The 61-year-old man, William Durden, was 15 nautical miles off shore when he was rescued.

15 nautical miles is about 17 regular miles, so it might make you wonder whether it would have made more sense to try to swim to shore. Treading water is less exerting, but maybe no one will ever come. Imagine hour after hour just staying in one place off shore!

Here, I found an article on the subject:
What if it’s two miles to the beach? Three? Sometimes, I feel like it might as well be 10,000 miles, but I know for sure, that waiting for a boat to happen by, is as likely as me winning the Power Ball. I know that I can’t waste one calorie of energy, or allow one thought to set up shop, that keeps me treading water and waiting for rescue....

Here’s the take away: The boat may, or mostly likely NOT, be coming, so head for shore and just keep swimming. The status quo of your life is merely treading water. Don’t delude yourself into thinking you are headed to shore, when you have no plan, no written personal vision, no set goal, no direction, no definitive action….you are simply treading water. Ask yourself, “How long can I tread water before I’m exhausted and am swallowed up by the deep?”
Oh, no! It's just a damned metaphor!

33 comments:

Michael said...

Unless he had a compass or was able to steer by stars on a clear night there is no way he could have made it to shore. I doubt the shore lights would have been bright enough to navigate with.

Fernandinande said...

Old Cosby:
God: Noah?
Noah: Yeah?!
God: How long can you tread water?

Freeman Hunt said...

They taught us how to float for a long, long time with no life jacket in swimming lessons when I was a kid. Face down, arms and legs hanging, mouth lifted out just barely when taking a breath. It was supposed to conserve maximum energy. Taught with the caveat that it might not work for bodybuilders with too much sinking muscle.

Original Mike said...

@Michael: The sun will also give you a good idea of the right heading. If it's overcast, that's a problem.

Freeman Hunt said...

Seventeen miles would be a hell of a swim. And you wouldn't know which way to go.

Freeman Hunt said...

Swimming 17 miles would be something like running three marathons. Better stay in place.

Original Mike said...

"Taught with the caveat that it might not work for bodybuilders with too much sinking muscle."

Or skinny people. In Boy Scout camp I always had a problem with the swimming test (required if you wanted to go on the overnight canoe trips) because after swimming 100 yds you had to float motionless for some period of time. I sank. I learned to cheat with small leg kicks underwater.

Ann Althouse said...

The swim in a triathlon is 2.4 miles... and it's the part where people are most likely to die.

Static Ping said...

I once swam a mile in a swimming pool. It is not easy, it took quite a while, and that was under more or less ideal conditions. Swimming 17 miles is very difficult. To put that in perspective, the standard ironman competition is a full marathon (26.2 miles), 112 miles on the bike, and all of 2.4 miles of swimming. By ironman standards, a 17 mile swim is roughly equivalent to 7+ marathons.

Apparently, the average human swimming speed is about 2 mph. It would have taken him 8 and a half hours of constant swimming and that's assuming he was not fighting against a current and/or rough seas. For all we know, his boat crashed 10 miles off shore and he drifted to where he was.

Is treading water a better solution in this case? I dunno. Depends on the swimmer and the conditions. I think a 17 mile swim would be a death sentence for most people so just staying afloat at least gave him a chance.

Unknown said...

I had plenty of survival training in the Navy and later the offshore oil exploration business (both very good). In the Navy especially--naval aviation--we practiced treading water for long periods of time, inflating our trousers to uses as flotation devices, and even had a mile swim. The emphasis is always on drownproofing, not trying to make it to shore. There may be circumstances where it would make sense, maybe relatively near shore, calm seas and a navigational reference--like the stars or the Sun, and enough knowledge to hold a steady course--but for the most part you keep your head above water utilizing the least amount of energy and wait for rescue. This man has a fighting spirit!

Bob Boyd said...

He was a former Navy pilot.

"The Reno, Nevada, resident credits his Navy training for his survival."

Bob Boyd said...

According to AP:
"The Coast Guard says Durden told them he was trying to grab a fishing pole while the boat was in gear when he went into the water."

mikee said...

You can stay alive by floating a lot longer if you aren't exhausted from swimming against a tide, or against a current. And being alive when you exit the water is the important part of the rescue.

coupe said...

It will be a good time to tell people how to survive a rip-tide.

Your first instinct is to try to swim against the tide. You tire, and they recover your body.

The secret is, rip-tides are narrow. Turn 90 degrees, and swim. Either direction, one is good as the other.

By swimming at a 90 degree angle, you exit the tide.

voilà...

coupe said...

I learned to float on my back or belly. It was so simple.

Then I got a leg cramp...

Ann Althouse said...

About that rip current: "If you swim parallel to the shore, he concludes, there’s a 50-percent chance you’ll end up be swimming into a stronger current. But if you just tread water, he says, there’s a 90 percent chance of being returned to shore within about three minutes."

traditionalguy said...

In college it was mandatory that we take and pass a course called "Drown Proofing." They did not want the education to go to waste.

The theory is simple, and it actually works. Your human body will float a foot below the surface, so you wait a minute and then tread water a pull or two back up and take another breath. Repeat until help comes. I believe it was taught Navy Flyers.

Fear is the only enemy, and hypothermia. Faith is the answer. Try it for two hours and pass the course.

SgtPete said...

Two thoughts:
First: If you are wearing pants or shirt, both will hold air for some time when wet. Just blow air into the top of the shirt, it will lift you. If you have pant, this too can be tied at the pants leg ends and can hold captured air. Both will keep you float without expending energy.
Second: A wise man said to me about life: "Better to be a meaningful specific, than a wondering generality." Here written goals with action plans will direct and define your life much better than any random thoughts. Write them today.

richlb said...

For a guy as fat as I am, I am terrible at floating.

coupe said...

When I first hit the water off of Florida, I think it was like 80 degrees. It was so warm and wonderful. I think I pee'd.

But as you know, even at 80 degrees it 19 degrees below your body temperature.

Sure enough I was cold and shivering in 80 degree water. It only took about 30 minutes and I didn't like it any more.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

When your eyes are six inches above sea level, your horizon is less than a mile away. A land mass seventeen miles away would have to be at least two hundred feet high to be visible

Curious George said...

"When I first hit the water off of Florida, I think it was like 80 degrees. It was so warm and wonderful. I think I pee'd.

But as you know, even at 80 degrees it 19 degrees below your body temperature.

Sure enough I was cold and shivering in 80 degree water. It only took about 30 minutes and I didn't like it any more."

Yep, a friend had the heater go out on his water bed during the summer. He woke up shivering. Of course this old guy was treading water and creating body heat.

Howard said...

Amazing story of survival. He had to stay calm else he would have used up his energy serving panic in a few short hours.

rhhardin said...

I can do a side stroke forever.

Original Mike said...

"Yep, a friend had the heater go out on his water bed during the summer. He woke up shivering."

Yep. I love waterbeds because you can turn the temperature up in winter and, even better, turn it down in summer. But the difference between the winter and summer temperature is only a couple of degrees. You freeze your ass off on a room temperature water bed, even in the summer.

Rick said...

rhhardin said...
I can do a side stroke forever.


With lube though, right?

PB said...

In salt water you're more buoyant so treading is easier and you don't have to be actively treading. Most swim classes teach resting positions in the water, on your back and on your stomach.

T J Sawyer said...

The technique called "drownproofing" is taught as a warm-water survival skill. See Wikipedia. I am quite sure I read about it described as the "Sioux Survival Method" back in the 1950's but can't find any trace of it under that name. Maybe someone else has a Boy's Life or outdoors magazine with the reference.

Quaestor said...

For a guy as fat as I am, I am terrible at floating.

Too bad. Fat is much less dense than lean muscle. It's also good insulation against core hypothermia. Survival swimming is the single athletic regime where fat dudes have it over the ripped, washboard abs types.

Fritz said...

A Chesapeake Bay Foundation carrying 22 passengers including 14 4th graders on a field trip hit a submerged obstruction off Bloodsworth Island on the Eastern Shore yesterday and sank. All 22 were rescued by a waterman, although the Captain of the stricken vessel had to be airlifted out. Water temp is only about 75, although it might be warmer over there.

Don't know whether it's made national news or not.

David said...

"The Reno, Nevada, resident credits his Navy training for his survival."

In the Navy he would have been wearing a life jacket in a small boat.

Paddy O said...

This reminds me of one of my favorite episodes of Magnum PI "Home from the Sea". Magnum tread water for 24 hrs in one of the best episodes of Magnum PI. He was also Navy trained (I think he was a Navy Seal)

exhelodrvr1 said...

Depends on how cold the water is. Treading water keeps your head out of the water, so while it takes more energy than drown proofing to stay afloat, you lose less heat energy. IIRC, somewhere in the low 40s was the dividing line.