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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.
Often happens in stories about Wooden Ships and Iron Men.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Lord Byron's Don Juan, 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.
- One Monty Python's Flying Circus episode had several sailors adrift in a boat and contemplating cannibalism to survive.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Happens in Illusion of Gaia.
- Alluded to in Links 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.
- One episode of The Simpsons had Homer, Bart, Ned, and Todd (or Rod) adrift at sea in a raft after a boyscout 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.
- 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.
- Dramatized in the Made for TV Movie Mission of the Shark.