What to Do if You're Capsized, if Your Boat Sinks or Floats Away or if Someone Falls Overboard
What to Do if You’re Capsized
If you should capsize or swamp your boat, or if you have fallen overboard and can't get back in, stay with the boat if possible. Your swamped boat is easier to see and will signal that you are in trouble. Also signal for help using other devices available (visual distress signals, whistle, mirror).
- If you made the mistake of not wearing a life jacket, find one and put it on. If you can't put it on, hold onto it. Have your passengers do the same.
- Take a head count. Reach, throw, row, or go, if needed.
- If your boat remains afloat, try to reboard or climb onto it in order to get as much of your body out of the cold water as possible. Treading water will cause you to lose body heat faster, so try to use the boat for support.
If Your Boat Sinks or Floats Away
If your boat sinks or floats away, don't panic.
- If you are wearing a life jacket, make sure that it is securely fastened, remain calm, and wait for help.
- If you aren't wearing a life jacket, look for one floating in the water or other floating items (coolers, oars or paddles, decoys, etc.) to help you stay afloat. Do your best to help your passengers find something to help them float and stay together.
- If you have nothing to support you, you may have to tread water or simply float. In cold water, float rather than tread to reduce hypothermia.
If Someone on Your Boat Falls Overboard
If someone on your boat falls overboard, you need to immediately:
- Reduce speed and toss the victim a PFD—preferably a throwable type—unless you know he or she is already wearing a life jacket.
- Turn your boat around and slowly pull alongside the victim, approaching the victim from downwind or into the current, whichever is stronger.
- Stop the engine. Pull the victim on board over the stern, keeping the weight in the boat balanced, especially in small boats.