Lifestyle & Human Interest

Man Survives by Using Jeans as Flotation Device After He Is Left Stranded at Sea for Hours


Arne Murke, 30, says he owes his life to a pair of jeans that kept him afloat after being knocked overboard while sailing off the New Zealand coast.

Murke, from Germany, has 20 years of sailing experience and took a job with his brother, Helge, to sail a yacht from Auckland, New Zealand, to Brazil.

The brothers were sailing in rough seas when a loose mainsheet caused the boom to suddenly swing hard and fast, knocking Murke overboard.

“I was dragged next to the boat for one or two seconds down in the water, but then the rope got loose luckily, and I was floating in the water not wearing any life jacket. Just my t-shirt, my jeans, that was all,” Murke told the New Zealand Herald.

Helge quickly threw a life jacket with a rope out to his brother, but Murke was already too far away to grab the rope.

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Murke quickly improvised, remembering that he could use his jeans as a flotation device, which he says is the reason he is alive today.

“Luckily, I knew the trick with the jeans. Without the jeans I wouldn’t be here today, they were really the thing that saved me,” Murke said.

“I saw it many years ago and I always thought if I ever go overboard without a life jacket I’m going to do that,” he said of the technique used by Navy SEALs.

“I took a deep breath, took out my jeans, made knots at the end of the legs and inflated the jeans; pull it over water and get air inside and then push it under water — I had like an improvised life vest.”

The jeans kept him floating, though Murke had to reinflate them over time. At one point, he recalled being so exhausted he was ready to give up.

Murke has a 10-month-old daughter, and said that she was his motivation to push through the exhaustion and fight for his life.

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Meanwhile, the Coastguard and Air Force began searching the rough waters in hopes of finding Murke alive.

Murke spent about three and a half hours in the water before he was eventually spotted by the Hawke’s Bay Rescue helicopter and was lifted out of the water.

Fortunate to be alive, Murke expressed his heartfelt gratitude for the search and rescue teams who saved his life.

While the near-death experience was rattling, it will not keep him from his love of the ocean.

“I know the risk but I’m not scared of it. I’m just going to be super careful in the future,” he said. “I would never say I’m not going out anymore, or I’m too scared.”

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A graduate of Grand Canyon University, Kim Davis has been writing for The Western Journal since 2015, focusing on lifestyle stories.
Kim Davis began writing for The Western Journal in 2015. Her primary topics cover family, faith, and women. She has experience as a copy editor for the online publication Thoughtful Women. Kim worked as an arts administrator for The Phoenix Symphony, writing music education curriculum and leading community engagement programs throughout the region. She holds a degree in music education from Grand Canyon University with a minor in eating tacos.
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