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What to Do if Someone on Your Boat Falls Overboard

What to Do if Someone on Your Boat Falls Overboard

2017 data from the United States Coast Guard found that 306 people on boats fell overboard that year, with 179 deaths and 126 injuries. Your first thought once on a boat is generally not about needing any backup plans. No one thinks that someone will fall overboard. But the thing is, anything can happen.

Preventing an overboard situation can be easy if you plan ahead. But if you’re not prepared, it’s going to be hard, and you’re more likely to be overwhelmed by the stress of the moment. It’s not just about them falling overboard either: it’s also about preventing the person from drowning. All crew members and passengers need to know what they can do in order to make a possible situation easier. Here’s what to do if someone on your boat falls overboard, courtesy of BoatUS.

Know Your Boat Inside and Out

You really need to know what kind of boat you have before taking off and trying to save your victim. You don’t want any boat parts to come into contact with that individual. Know about what kind of chine you have and investigate your stern platform. When preparing for a recovery effort, think about your boat and whatever challenges you may have with the maneuverability of it.

There’s three turns to be aware of when rescuing a victim: the “Destroyer” turn, the Anderson turn and the Williamson turn. These common maneuvers can mean the difference between life and death for someone who has fallen overboard.

Consider the First Steps Before the Worst Happens

When there’s a man-overboard (MOB) situation in progress, you need to act fast. Time is of the essence; saving that person is the sole goal of the entire boat at that point. Consider taking these steps in order to help secure the victim quickly and safely:

  • Once someone falls overboard, you need to let people know immediately. Shout out, “Man overboard!” in order to alert crew to the emergency. That way people can spring into action. Then establish a view of where the victim has fallen into the water. If you have enough crew members, make this the job of one specific person.
  • If you’re unsure of where the person has fallen into the water, then it’s time to turn off the boat. You don’t want to risk hitting them; it would probably be fatal if that were to happen.
  • If you have a MOB GPS button, enable it.
  • If you have MOB gear, life jackets or floatation cushions, start throwing them out to the victim. Give them anything that they can grab onto that’ll help them float until you can effectively retrieve them.
  • Return to and attempt to retrieve the victim.
  • In a life-threatening situation, call mayday three times on VHF 16. Then say, “man overboard,” and give your location, boat description and victim description. Do this three times in succession. If you happen to get the person aboard before help comes, you can also cancel the mayday alert.

No one likes to think about their fun afternoon boat ride turning into a stressful situation. However, it’s important to know that there always is a chance of it, whether it’s caused by a sudden swell of bad weather or an inexperienced boater. Before setting out on your voyage, make sure that you have the right precautions in place. Have working floatation gear on board and easily accessible, and go over MOB procedures ahead of time. Finally, make sure that your Newport Beach Boat Insurance program includes bodily injury coverage, just in case injury were to befall someone on your boat. Stay safe, and happy boating!


About Mariners Insurance

Mariners General Insurance Group was founded in 1959 to protect boat owners and marine business clients. We are marine insurance experts and insure boats worldwide – in every ocean on the planet. Marine insurance is critical if you own a boat or nautical business. Trust the professionals with all of your Boat Insurance needs – trust Mariners Insurance. Call us at (800) 992-4443 any time you have questions or concerns about insurance for your vessel or marine business.