What To Do If Your Boat Capsizes

What To Do If Your Boat Capsizes

One minute, you’re enjoying a beautiful day out on the water. In the next second, you’re involved in a boat accident. Even though you may be practicing boat safety, boat capsizing can happen at any moment. It’s important that you are prepared to handle this situation to prevent any safety issues. In this blog post, we’re going to discuss how to handle a boat capsize incident. From assessing the situation when it occurs to staying calm and signalling for help, we will cover everything that you need to know. We’ll even discuss several ways to prevent capsizing so you can make the most of your time out on your boat.


Assessing the Situation and Staying Calm

A boat capsizing incident typically comes as a surprise, but it’s ideal that everyone involved remains calm. This allows for a proper assessment of the situation, including checking for injuries, accounting for everyone on board, and determining the best way to signal for help.


Reaching for and Putting on a Life Jacket

Every boat should be equipped with a life jacket for each person on board. It’s optimal that everyone has their life jackets on ahead of time, but they should be easily accessible when not required during the voyage. Wearing a life jacket can alleviate having to tread water for an extended period of time and can help keep some of your body out of the water so you don’t develop hypothermia.


Staying Together and Keep in Sight

It might be tempting for everyone to scramble and find something to hold onto or attempt to get to shore on their own. By staying together, you’re creating a large group that can be seen easily. This will increase your chance of getting rescued. If you can, try to get some of the group up on the underside of the boat to keep them out of the water and make your location more visible.


What to Do If You’re Alone

If you’re on a boat by yourself and it capsizes, you should still remain calm and assess the boating accident. You’ll want to stay with the boat, as it will provide you with some degree of buoyancy. It’s likely that the water you’re in is very cold, so you’ll want to get as much of your body out of the water as possible. Hang on tight and wait for help to arrive. It’s also important that you stay with the boat because it will be easier to spot than a single swimmer in the middle of a large body of water.


Signalling for Help

There are a few different methods that you can use to signal for help. What you choose to utilize will depend on what’s still available to you after your boat capsizing situation occurs. If you have access to an orange distress flag, set it up as high as possible on your vessel. These flags can usually be seen a few miles away. Flares are also a great way to get spotted, especially if the sun has started to go down. Orange smoke cloud flares are ideal for nighttime use, whereas red flares work well in the daytime.


Swimming to Safety

It’s recommended that you only leave your boat if it’s approximately 50 meters away from the shore. Anything more than that can be difficult to navigate, especially if you’re in rough waters. If you are close to shore but know that you’re not a strong swimmer, your best plan of action is to stay with the boat and attempt to signal for help.


When to Abandon a Capsized Boat

You should feel comfortable abandoning your boat if you’re within 50 meters of shore and believe that you can safely swim that distance. You should also consider abandoning the boat if it is headed towards some sort of danger. Ultimately, there should be something else that you can secure yourself on, such as rocks or a breaker wall.


How to Right a Capsized Boat

If your boat is small enough that you think you can right it back to its original position, situate yourself on one side of the boat. If you have other people there to help you, all of you should be on the same side. Start rocking the boat back and forth until you have enough momentum to turn the boat completely. It’s likely that there will be water in the boat, which you may need to remove by rocking the boat back and forth to slosh the water out.


How to Re-enter a Capsized Boat

Once you’ve righted a capsized boat, now comes the challenge of getting back into that boat. It’s a good idea to practice this process in calm water before your boat actually capsizes. Here are the steps you will take:

  • Position yourself in the middle of the boat, holding on with both hands.
  • If the boat is filled with water, attempt to rock it back and forth in order to remove some of the water.
  • Pull yourself up on the boat and reach across to the other side.
  • Holding tightly onto the other side of the boat, pull the rest of your body up and into the boat.


How to Deal with Hypothermia

Your goal should be to reboard your boat in order to prevent hypothermia. Getting as much of your body out of the water as possible will help prevent heat loss. Depending on the temperature of the water and the temperature of the air, you might feel colder once you’re out of the water. However, being in the water will cause you to lose more body heat in a shorter period of time.


How to Communicate Distress Signals

The most common way to signal for help when your boat’s safety has been compromised is to create some sort of visual signal. This may be a flare, a flame, smoke or a flag. If you see someone nearby, you may also want to wave your arms back and forth over your head to indicate that you’re in distress.


Tips for Preventing a Boat from Capsizing

When you’re out on the water, you can reduce your risk of capsizing by practicing a few boat safety methods. This includes not overloading your boat with people or gear. You should make sure that the people and gear on your boat are balanced properly. When it comes time to turn your boat, only do so at controlled speeds.

The unexpected scenario of a boat capsizing may come as a surprise, but knowing how to assess the situation and spring into action is imperative. In order to increase your chances of survival, reaching for a life jacket is ideal. Moving forward, your group should stay together in order to maintain visibility. The details of the scenario will change a bit if you’re by yourself, but the goal is to signal for help and potentially swim to safety. Understanding different distress signals and swimming techniques that will help you conserve energy can make a big difference in the outcome in a boat capsizing situation. In some cases, it may be possible to right and re-enter the boat, allowing you to address injuries, deal with hypothermia and signal to other boats or aircraft to alert them you’re in distress. Ideally, preventive boat safety measures can help keep your boat right side up, so you minimize your risk of capsizing.


Don’t Let a Capsized Boat Ruin Your Holiday,
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