OK, let me be clear about one thing from the start: this is not a book every sailor needs. If you sail lakes or in sight of land, you're unlikely to find yourself in a situation where your very survival may depend on what you know or the survival gear you might have brought along. You still need to understand about boating safety, but you probably don't need to know how to fashion a fishhook and line from available materials to prevent starvation as you drift for weeks at sea. But if you go offshore in a boat, you are more likely than the average joe to experience an emergency in which your knowledge, wits, and gear play a major role in staying alive. In such a case, knowing some of what Navy SEALs learn may be to your benefit.
The book is also of value to those who hike off the grid, climb isolated mountains, ski backcountry, or engage in other activities involving the risk that you might end up on your own in a survival situation.
Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo
The U.S. Navy SEAL Survival Handbook
Skyhorse Publishing, 2012
248 pages, soft cover
What It's About?
The 15 chapters cover a wide range of survival skills for virtually all situations, including jungles, mountains, deserts, and of course being at sea. While one might think that the now widespread use of EPIRBs, PLBs, and VHF handheld radios with DSC make survival skills less important for boaters, situations continue to occur in which equipment failure or simply the inability to get to and use the equipment leads to boaters drifting in liferafts or small craft for extended periods, awaiting rescue. If you're truly obsessive about wanting to be prepared for any possibility, you could gain from many of the tips in this manual.
While the chapter on survival at sea is only 16 pages long, it contains a lot of interesting, useful information. What is the best position in which to float if you find yourself in the water without a PFD? How can you make a flotation aid from clothing you are likely wearing? What's the best way to collect rainwater and nighttime dew when you've run out of water? What fish parts provide the most water, and which should you avoid because you use more water to digest them than you take in from them? How can you improvise fishing gear from materials commonly at hand? If you catch a bird, what uses can you make of its inedible parts? What to do if a shark approaches you in the water? What signs of a nearby island should you look for when you can't see land? Should you use iodine to disinfect a coral cut? If cast up on an uninhabited coast, what mollusks are safe to eat and which should you avoid?
In addition to this chapter on survival at sea, many other chapters are of value to boaters. The chapters on basic survival tips, water purification, emergency navigation, weather, survival medicine, and survival kits all contain useful information you probably don't know, as well as being a good read for those interested in self-sufficiency in settings where you can't just call 911.
One of the more enjoyable dimensions of the book is the true stories of survival situations sprinkled throughout the book. Anyone who couldn't stop reading Shackleton's famous story of survival in the Antarctic - trekking over the ice, sailing a small open craft 800 miles over the southern ocean, and climbing mountains to reach help in order to return to his trapped crew - will find many of the stories in this book equally gripping.
On the downside, I found myself wishing the book was longer and had even more detailed information. In addition, it needs an index so that it can be used also for quick reference: a reader in need of quick information shouldn't have to peruse multiple chapters looking for a specific item. But these are small complaints for a book so rich in so many ways.
About the Authors
Lead author Don Mann, a retired Navy SEAL, formerly trained SEALs in most survival settings and has trained athletes for extreme adventure competitions. His other books include Inside SEAL Team Six and The Complete Guide to Adventure Racing. Ralph Pezzullo, a bestselling writer who has frequently teamed up with knowledgeable experts, is author of a dozen books on adventurous themes.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.