Emergencies on board
Prepare to handle common boating problems
Nearly all boating accidents are caused by human error and are preventable, but we often ignore or fail to recognize the warning signs. The best way to handle a boating emergency is to prevent it.
Alcohol is the most dominant contributing element in boating accidents and fatalities. To reduce your risk, it’s not enough to have a “designated driver” at the helm. Every person on board needs to be able to react unimpaired. Alcohol, even in small amounts, makes you unsteady, slows responses and adds to the potential for seasickness.
Have a diagram or know where important items are stowed on your boat to reduce the time it takes to access emergency equipment when needed. It will also help passengers and crew avoid excessive movement through congested areas and passageways at this critical time.
Life jacket wear by children under age 13 is mandated by U.S. Coast Guard rules. It’s important for adults to wear life jackets when conditions warrant, but it’s even better to wear an inflatable life jacket at all times when away from the dock—even if you are a strong swimmer—and always at night.
Harnesses increase protection against going overboard. Use a tether to attach your harness to a jackline. Clip it on whenever you are unsteady or need both hands to perform a task like hoisting sails or setting an anchor.
To prevent falling, wear shoes with non-skid soles. Use grab rails when you feel unsteady. Use lifelines or crawl on deck. Keep decks and passageways uncluttered. Secure items to prevent sudden movement.
An uncontrolled flying boom can cause serious or fatal injuries. Even in light air, a preventer (a line running from the boom forward to a block and back to the cockpit) will secure the boom and prevent any unexpected movement.
Being dry is critical to being warm. Even in moderate temperatures, being wet can lead to hypothermia, and slight hypothermia leads to slow thinking and loss of agility. Wear good quality foul-weather gear with layers of fleece underneath as soon as spray starts to fly or rain begins to fall.
Encourage everyone on board to be safety-minded and look out for the others. Staying safe is everyone’s responsibility.
To learn more, sign up to take our Emergencies on Board webinar on March 20 for only $25.