Boating Basics Online - Basic Boating Safety Course
Chapter 8 - Accidents and Emergencies

Capsizing/Falls Overboard

Small open boats can be unstable and tippy. Be sure that the boat is tied securely to the dock when boarding and step into the centerline of the boat running fore and aft. With a hand on the pier and one on the boat, lower yourself down into the center. Although not required, you should wear a PFD. All other passengers should follow suit and keep low when moving around in the boat.

You should not attempt to carry items aboard the boat. You should board first and load them one at a time and, again, place them along the centerline of the boat. Remember to not overload the boat. Read and take heed of the capacity plate information. Make sure all passengers and carry-on items are secure and the weight evenly distributed. Maintain 3 points of contact with the boat at all times.

Once underway, avoid standing up, riding on the bow or gunwale (side) of the boat, trim the boat so it rides level and avoid making sudden sharp turns.

The majority of small pleasure boats, and all built after 1978, have floatation to keep them from sinking even if they capsize. If you should capsize, it may be safer to stay with the floating boat than try to swim to shore. Staying with the boat also provides another source of flotation and an easier object for rescuers to see.

A small, unstable, tippy boat may capsize from the following causes:

Should your boat capsize, take a head count to make sure everyone is there, don life jackets, check for injuries and stay with the boat.

If your life jackets (PFDs) have floated out of range, you can use anything available to keep afloat until you can reach the boat. This might include ice chests, empty soda bottles, etc.

You should conserve energy but begin to signal for help using available equipment such as visual distress signals, horn, mirror, etc.

If you can, turn the boat upright and bail it out. Once most of the water is out, climb back in. Or, if close to shore, just climb in the boat and paddle.

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