Practicing good seamanship can reduce your risk of capsizing. But if your boat overturns, you need to know what to do to ensure the safety of yourself and your passengers.
- Stay with the boat. Never swim away from an upturned boat unless it’s heading directly toward a hazard.
- Take a head count and signal for rescue if possible.
- If the boat is small enough, try to right it and bail it out. If you can’t right the boat, hang onto it. Try to get as much of your body as possible out of the water and onto the hull, where you will be less susceptible to hypothermia.
- If you are separated from the boat or the boat sinks, grab onto anything that floats, including coolers, oars, seat cushions and extra life jackets.
- Leave your clothes and shoes on. Shoes or waders filled with water don’t affect your ability to stay afloat, and they conserve body heat.
- If you are wearing a life jacket, bring your arms and legs to your chest to conserve body heat. If you’re not wearing a life jacket, float on your back and move your arms and legs only when necessary to conserve energy and body heat.
- When the rescue boat arrives, let it approach you; avoid the stern (propeller) and the bow.
- If thrown a line, wrap it around your chest under your arms and secure with a knot. Rescue personnel will tell you what to do next.
If you boat far from shore, consider purchasing an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. EPIRBs can alert rescue personnel and provide your precise location. Even without an EPIRB, staying with the boat can help the Coast Guard find you.
For more tips on boating safety, visit uscgboating.org. –U.S. Coast Guard