Even in calm wind and seas, it’s easy to lose balance on a moving boat and fall overboard. The shock of being tossed in the water can overwhelm even strong swimmers. Fortunately, you can take precautions to keep yourself and your passengers safe, dry and out of harm’s way.
Preventing a man overboard
- Install continuous guardrails around the upper deck.
- Treat slippery areas with nonskid paint or adhesive strips.
- Use a safety harness in rough weather and at night.
- Wear protective clothing and a life jacket fitted with reflective tape and a light.
- Have safety equipment such as a horseshoe lifebuoy and buoyant heaving line ready for immediate use.
- Practice man-overboard drills regularly.
Recovering a man overboard
- When someone falls overboard, don’t panic.
- Stop the boat immediately. If the victim is on a lifeline, recover him or her.
- Otherwise, throw a lifebuoy to the person in the water.
- Raise the alarm by shouting, “Man overboard!”
- Instruct a crew member to watch and keep a finger pointed at the victim.
- Carry out the man-overboard drill you’ve practiced.
- If possible, note your position using a GPS receiver.
- If you are the only person on deck, don’t leave the deck–you could lose sight of the victim.
- In the dark, use a white parachute flare to illuminate the area and pick up the reflective tape on the person’s clothing or life jacket.
- If you cannot see or have any doubt about your ability to recover the victim, initiate a mayday on your VHF radio. –Darle Shouse