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

In Water Survival

Should you find yourself in the water, there are survival techniques you can use while waiting to be picked up. Hopefully, you have been a safe boater and you have on your PFD. If not, you will have to float or tread water until rescued.

One method of floating is the horizontal back float. This comfortable position keeps your face out of the water and allows you to conserve energy. You simply lie back motionless with your arms outstretched, arching your back slightly, allowing your legs to rise straight out.

Another method of floating is the vertical back float. This position does not float your entire body on the water’s surface. Your body is still underwater except for your face and upper chest, with your arms extended out to each side.

If you cannot float in this manner, you can practice survival floating. Tilt your head back, slowly press down with your arms and legs to bring your mouth above the water, inhale, hold your breath and go limp for a few seconds. Your face will go underwater while you dangle your arms and legs. Exhale as you are tilting your head back and preparing to break the water's surface so that a minimum amount of energy and movement is required to keep your head out of the water long enough to inhale.

Treading water requires more energy than floating but keeps your head above water. Treading water is accomplished by doing a slow series of scissor kicks with your legs while slowly waving your outstretched arms back and forth on the water’s surface.

Should you find yourself capsized or overboard in a swift river current, turn on your back and position your feet downstream. This will help cushion blows from rocks and debris.

When you find yourself in the water, keep your clothes on to help prevent heat loss. Because they also trap air, they can assist you in floating.

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