Lost at Sea

Look, chicken!

"Lost at sea for days now. I have no crew and no navigational instruments, no provisions except a half-eaten corn dog, and unless I find water soon, I'm surely done for."
-from the Captain's Log of Guybrush Threepwood, The Curse of Monkey Island

A character or characters finds themselves adrift on the ocean without a means of getting to shore and little to no food or drinkable water. Usually, this is the result of a storm at sea, and if the characters in question are lucky they'll be in a lifeboat. If not they'll be floating on a piece of driftwood with nothing except the clothes on their back.

One or more of the characters may start hallucinating or acting crazy, or the survivors may start to argue over the remaining supplies while they wait to be rescued or manage to find land.

Often happens in stories about Wooden Ships and Iron Men.


Comic Books
  • Variant in De cape et de crocs: the heroes find themselves stranded in low water in the middle of the mediterranean sea, with nothing to eat or drink and no possible escape. One of them tries to fish, the other two start bikering and fighting.
  • Tintin: Tintin, Haddock and Szut are also lost at sea on a hastily made lifeboat in Coke en stock. When Tintin and Szut decide to drink sea water to stop suffering from thirst, Haddock mocks them... and promptly slips on the planks, falling head first in the sea and drinking more than both of them.

  • The Alfred Hitchcock movie Lifeboat.
  • Open Water. Two scuba divers are accidentally left behind by their dive boat in the open ocean.
    • The sequel features a group of boaters who all decide to go swimming one day and then a series of increasingly improbable events keep them from getting back on board.
  • Parodied at the end of Road to Morocco, where Bing Crosby and Bob Hope's characters end up on a raft in the ocean. Following Hope's lengthy hamtastic speech about certain death, it's revealed they're almost literally floating in the New York City harbor.
  • In Joe Versus the Volcano, Joe ends lost at sea on his wonderful luggage. Twice.
  • Proteus
  • The entire plot of All Is Lost is one man's battle to survive after his yacht is struck by a cargo container.
  • The main plot in Life of Pi
  • Occurs in Penguins of Madagascar, after Dave escapes with Private captured and the penguins are adrift in a metal bowl without food and water. Subverted when it is revealed they're being towed by the North Wind, who are relaxing five feet away in an inflatable pontoon dining on fine food and drink.

  • The poem "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner": a group of sailors wind up lost at sea when the ship is driven off course after the narrator shoots an albatross. One by one the crew all perish, but the mariner survives.
  • The short story "The Open Boat" by Stephen Crane is about a group of sailors who are lost at sea. It was based on Crane's own experience of surviving a shipwreck.
  • Happens in Don Juan by Lord Byron, eventually leading to No Party Like a Donner Party. The eponymous hero is the only survivor.
  • Actually happens, of all people, to Captain Aubrey of the Aubrey-Maturin saga. He has to rescue Dr. Maturin when the latter falls out of the Surprise's great cabin, but since the two are unable to grab onto the ship's boats, they are left to float and swim for a considerable period of time till they are picked up by a pahi boat piloted by some rather hostile lady islanders.
  • Slimer begins with the protagonists adrift in the freezing cold Atlantic in a life raft after their yacht sank.
  • The Island of Doctor Moreau also begins this way. In Edward Prendick's case, he's in the Pacific. He initially has a couple of fellow survivors with him, but they get into a fight after it's suggested they turn to cannibalism to survive. The two fall overboard and drown, leaving Prendick alone. Prendick is eventually picked up by a passing ship, but in the interim has gone nearly insane from sunstroke and lack of food.
  • Frankenstein
  • The central plot of Life of Pi. The twist is that he isn't lost at sea with other people... he's lost at sea with a full-grown Bengal tiger!

Live-Action TV
  • One Monty Python's Flying Circus episode had several sailors adrift in a boat and contemplating cannibalism to survive.
  • Evoked by Ricky Gervais and Steve Merchant in The Ricky Gervais Show, when they asked Karl Pilkington who he'd rather save from a sinking ship. Most of Steve's argumentation was based on the fact that if Karl took Ricky on his lifeboat, he'd eat all the food in five minutes and let Karl starve.
  • The third-season Hawaii Five-0 episode, "Lana I Ka Moana" (whose title is Hawaiian for "Adrift") partially employs this trope when it starts with Danny and McGarrett getting their boat hijacked on a fishing trip, far enough offshore that it's no longer visible. The thief leaves them in the dinghy they found him in, which no longer has a working motor, and although it seems eminently possible they can save themselves (and eventually they do), at first Danny sees their situation as hopeless.
  • While trying to avoid the stray dogs crowding the beach at the Jersey Shore, Mac and Frank of Its Always Sunny In Philadelphia pass out in an inflatable raft after getting drunk on Rum Ham and wake up adrift at sea. Then they lose the Rum Ham!
  • The subject of the Mr. Show sketch "Lifeboat" in which the raft passengers are members of a Jerry Springer-esque show. They're actually more concerned with their own problems than they are with finding dry land.
  • Horatio Hornblower: In "The Even Chance", it happened to Archie Kennedy. It was no accident. He had an epileptic fit during a covert raid and Hornblower had to clunk him unconscious, and his tormentor untied the boat he was in an attempt to murder him. The boat drifts away and he's lost and presumed dead. He appears again in "The Duchess and the Devil". The audience doesn't know much about the period when he was Lost at Sea as the focus is always on Hornblower.
  • Married... with Children: In the two part episode. "Ship Happens'', Al, Peg, Marcy and Jefferson go on a cruise aboard the S.S. Sea Dodge that's a fitness cruise for fat women. At night however, the crew participates in certain "after-hours activities" (as described by Gretchen, the aerobics instructor). After the 6:30 lockdown, one of the fat women smells the jerk chicken and tries to cut through the deck with a blowtorch, causing the ship to sink. Al, Peg, Marcy, Jefferson, a fat woman named Kay and Gilbert Gottfried wind up stranded on a life raft in the middle of the ocean. All of the other passengers and the entire crew drowned.


Video Games
  • At the beginning of The Curse of Monkey Island, Guybrush is adrift at sea on a bumper car after escaping from the Carnival of the Damned after the end of the last game.
    • And to continue it as a gag, literally everything he lists would be nice to have floats by him but he never notices due to his writing. Which follows as: fresh water (a bottle of purified spring water), fresh fruit to fight off scurvy (a crate filled with various fruit), bananas (a banana crate), and finally "I might as well wish for a chicken and a big barrel of Grog for all the good it'll do me" (the trope page image). He does notice the pitched battle, though, because the cannon fire breaks his reverie.
  • Happens in Illusion of Gaia.
  • Alluded to in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening: Link gets caught in a storm and apparently washes up on a small island. By the end of the game he's defeated the Nightmares and caused a Dream Apocalypse, but he's still stranded in the middle of nowhere with nobody but a psychedelic whale and a couple of seagulls to keep him company.

Western Animation
  • One episode of The Simpsons had Homer, Bart, Ned, and Todd (or Rod) adrift at sea in a raft after a boy scout rafting trip goes awry. They are eventually saved when Homer is able to locate a Krusty Burger situated on an offshore drilling rig.
  • The Road to El Dorado: Miguel and Tulio are lost at sea on a lifeboat and suffer from thirst.
  • Classic Disney Short "No Sail": Donald Duck and Goofy are on a coin-operated boat and don't have enough change to get back to shore.
  • Looney Tunes short "Wakiki Wabbit" opens with two castaways on a raft, each considering eating the other.
    • Another cartoon, "8 Ball Bunny", has Bugs and a penguin briefly stranded at sea, and Bugs starts seeing his companion as a roast chicken.
  • Garfield imagines this, with the box as the makeshift seagoing vessel of choice. He imagines Odie as a Dagwood sandwich (not called out as such, but still).
    • Garfield also imagines that he and Odie are pirates lost at sea in the Halloween special, while floating across a misty lake in a rowboat.
  • Fievel from An American Tail gets washed overboard at sea, but miraculously survives by floating to New York in a glass bottle.
  • In the Family Guy episode "The Perfect Castaway" Peter, Joe, Quagmire and Cleveland are castaways after Peter's fishing boat is destroyed in a hurricane, escaping on a raft made from Quagmire's inflatable doll collection. Peter eats Joe's legs up to his knees before they find a deserted island. They are rescued several months later by a cruise ship that passes by while the men are attempting to have an orgy.
  • An episode of CatDog has the titular duo along with Mervis and Mr. Sunshine lost at sea while inside a dumpster. They turn it into a makeshift sail boat and Cat names himself captain, but proceeds to become increasingly tyrannical. After making his whole crew walk the plank, it turns out they were never lost at sea, but inside a fountain surrounded by fog. Except Cat is still Drunk with Power.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door had Sector V get lost at sea after their plane breaks down, but instead of water, they were stranded in a sea of asparagus.

Real Life
  • This is very much Truth in Television. One of the most well-known examples of the 20th century occurred after the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed in the Philippine sea in 1945. Out of 880 men that survived the ship sinking itself, only 317 ultimately survived the five-day ordeal.