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The Typical Boating Accident

Most boating fatalities don't have anything to do with bad weather or hazardous sea conditions. They typically occur in smaller, open boats on inland waters during daylight hours when weather and visibility are good, the winds are light, and the water is calm. Despite these ideal conditions, passengers fall overboard and many boats capsize, causing over half of all boating fatalities.

Capsizing, Swamping, or Falling Overboard

Capsizing is when a boat turns on its side or turns completely over. Swamping occurs when a boat stays upright and fills with water. Sometimes a person falling overboard from a boat causes the boat to capsize or swamp. Regardless, the outcome is the same—people are in the water unexpectedly.

capsized boat
Help Prevent Capsizing, Swamping, or Falling Overboard

To help prevent and prepare for capsizing, swamping, or someone falling overboard, follow these guidelines.

  • Make sure that you and your passengers are wearing life jackets while the boat is underway.
  • Attach the ignition safety switch lanyard to your wrist, clothes, or life jacket.
  • Don't allow anyone to sit on the gunwale, bow, seat backs, motor cover, or any other area not designed for seating. Also, don't let anyone sit on pedestal seats when operating at a speed greater than idle speed.
  • Don't overload your boat. Balance the load of all passengers and gear.
  • Keep your center of gravity low by not allowing people to stand up or move around while underway, especially in smaller, less-stable boats.
  • In a small boat, don't allow anyone to lean a shoulder beyond the gunwale.
  • Slow your boat appropriately when turning.
  • Don't risk boating in rough water conditions or in bad weather.
  • When anchoring, secure the anchor line to the bow, never to the stern.
Tips for Small Craft Boaters

Small craft boaters need to be especially careful to avoid falling overboard. Falling overboard and drowning is the major cause of fatalities for small boats. To prevent falling overboard:

  • Keep centered in the boat with your center of gravity low in the boat. Always keep your shoulders between the gunwales.
  • If possible, don't move about the boat. If you must move, maintain three points of contact. That is, keep both hands and one foot or both feet and one hand in contact with the boat at all times.
  • Evenly distribute and balance the weight of persons and gear within the boat, keeping most of the weight low. It is extremely important not to overload a small boat.
Bow Riding is Risky

Sitting on the gunwale, bow, seat backs, or any other area not designed for seating is risky behavior and can result in falling overboard. It is illegal in many states.

Riding on the stern