NEW ZEALAND—One never knows when a boating safety tip – and a clothing item – can come in handy. A German man named Arne Murke, 30, owes his life to a navy trick that helped him fashion a flotation device from his jeans.
Murke, who had sailed Down Under from Brazil with his brother, fell overboard on March 6 when the yacht’s boom swung out unexpectedly. Murke’s brother threw a life vest, but it was too late – Murke was carried into the ocean’s swell out of the reach of the yacht.
Fortunately, Murke was aware of the trick for making a flotation device with a pair of pants, a trick that many well-seasoned sailors or military men have used for survival. When searching YouTube, there are many videos explaining how to make a flotation device from jeans.
An article by lifehacker.com from 2016 breaks down the survival technique taught to all U.S. Marines.
The article states: “As soon as you hit the water, pull those pants off. Once they’re off, tie the pant legs together with a simple square knot, then grab the pants by the waistline. Now pull them out of the water and give them a good whip, letting the pant legs fill with as much air as possible before hitting the water again. Each pant leg should balloon up with air, but this may take a few attempts to get it right. After you capture enough air, put your head through like it’s a life vest and hold the waist of your pants closed with one hand. As you float, use your other hand to keep the pant legs wet so they can retain the air inside longer. Even if you’re near the shore, this trick can make swimming a lot easier and keep you from tiring out.”
“Luckily, I knew the trick with the jeans,” Murke said to The New Zealand Herald. “Without the jeans I wouldn’t be here today. They were really the thing that saved me.”
More than three hours after falling overboard, including the struggle to stay afloat, Murke was rescued by Hawke’s Bay Rescue helicopter, which pulled him up to safety.
In the United States Coast Guard’s 2017 Recreational Boating Statistics, it was revealed 76 percent of accident victims drowned, with 84.5 percent of those victims not wearing a life jacket. While Murke survived this event, it’s also a reminder no matter how skilled a sailor one is mistakes can happen at sea. Wearing a flotation device may seem childish, but in the event one is thrown overboard, a life vest can ultimately save one’s life by ensuring staying afloat in the ocean or other waterways.