What Should You Do If Your Boat Capsizes?

What Should You Do If Your Boat Capsizes?

A boat capsizing doesn’t occur often, but if it happens when you are out on the water, it puts you and other passengers at a safety risk.

But then, what should you do if your boat capsizes? As such, it is always crucial that you get prepared for emergencies beforehand since this disaster can occur anytime.

Also, when an emergency happens, you need to know what to do and actions to take to save lives.

What Causes a Boat to Capsize?

Capsize, Go Under, Ship, Boat, Sink, Sea
Sinking boat

A boat capsizing occurs when a vessel overturns or is swamped with water. Most often, capsizing occurs with small boats such as sailboats or canoes.

Fortunately, these small boats usually stay afloat, giving you and your passengers in the water something to hold on to for support.

Common causes of boat capsizing and falls overboard include:

  • Being caught off guard by a wave
  • Carrying too heavy luggage in the boat
  • Sharp turn when sailing around in the boat
  • Bad weather conditions
  • Unequally distributed weight in the vessel

What Should You Do If Your Boat Capsizes?

If your boat capsizes, you’ll want to do everything you can to stay safe. This means that you’ll need to stay calm and act quickly. Here are the steps you should take:

1. Don’t Panic

Panicking when your boat capsizes is the worst thing you can do. This makes it harder for everyone to stay safe and makes the whole situation a lot more stressful.

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When your boat capsizes, you’ll need to keep a clear head so that you can properly handle the situation.

2. Assess The Situation

If you want to keep everyone safe, you must assess the situation. There are many things that you need to consider: if there is anyone injured, how many life jackets do people have on, and where exactly they are?

You should also evaluate how stable your boat is before trying to move around. If your boat begins to capsize more and the situation seems too unstable, you will want to stay put and wait for rescue.

Read: Outboard motor runs fine then loses power

Ship, Capsized, Listing, Turned Over
capsizing boat

3. Stay Put If Possible

If you can stay on your boat without having it capsize again, then we highly recommend that you do so. During this time, you should take in all the life jackets from the people in the water and make sure that everyone has one on.

You can also try to get a signal for your phone so that you can call for help. Make sure that you take any safety precautions while waiting for rescue, such as using flares or shining a flashlight into the sky.

4. Use A Life Jacket

Although life jackets might not save you from every situation, they can save your life if your boat capsizes. You should wear a life jacket at all times on the water to prevent any potential injuries.

If you’re not wearing one and your boat capsizes, then the chances of getting injured go up exponentially. It’s also essential that you keep the life jacket on until a rescuer tells you to take it off.

Read: Boat fresh water pump troubleshooting

Sailing, Laser, Sea, Eurocup, Capsize
sinking boat

5. Don’t Try to Swim Upstream

If you drift downstream, you must stay calm and wait for rescue. There are a couple of reasons why this is the best course of action:

  • There’s no need to panic if you aren’t in any immediate danger
  • Swimming against the current makes it much harder for rescuers to find you
  • You’ll be able to float downstream until help arrives easily

By staying calm and floating downstream with your life jacket on, you can stay afloat while waiting for boat or jet ski rescuers to find you.

If your boat capsizes and the above guide isn’t enough, you must know when to contact a professional. In the age of the internet, it’s easy to find a local service that can help you in any way necessary.

You can even do it all from your phone! If you ever need a boat or jet ski rescue, make sure that you know when is the right time to call for help and who to call.

How to Signal for Help When Your Boat Capsizes

The next step is to ask for help. Before setting sail, it’s a good idea to file a float plan and have an appointed person on the shoreline who knows when to hear from you and when to expect you back.

If you are overdue and the designated person cannot reach you, they should alert the emergency services.

Also, as you prepare for the trip, make sure to carry the right signaling devices in a grab bag. Smoke or signal flares or any other shiny object will help in your rescue.

However, make sure you save them for the moment when they are most likely to be seen by rescuers. 

Make sure you are highly visible by wearing bright clothing. Additionally, try to make your boat appear larger on the surface by tying objects on it.

It becomes difficult to attract attention when you don’t have any means of communication or signaling devices. So, do as much as possible to make yourself and your capsized boat highly visible.

Read: Buying a documented boat

Reduce the Risk of Capsizing

Stay Aware

You must always stay aware of your surroundings while you’re on the water. This way, you’ll be able to identify any potential hazards and take the necessary precautions. For example, if you see a storm brewing in the distance, then you’ll want to head back to shore.

Follow the Rules of The Road

Just like on land, there are road rules when it comes to boating. Make sure that you know and follow these rules so that everyone can safely enjoy their time on the water.

Don’t overload Your Boat

This is one of the most important things you can do to reduce the risk of capsizing. You should never overload your boat, and it’s even worse if you’re driving a speedboat.

An overloaded boat will be too unstable and could result in an accident or injury. Make sure that your boat is properly weighted at all times.

Reduce Speed While Cruising

While you want to get places quickly, you must reduce your cruising speed. This will allow the boat to go straight and make steering easy. If you’re speeding up and slowing down constantly, then it will become much harder to steer the boat.

Don’t Turn Too Quickly

You should always make sure that your turn radius is wide enough when you’re turning. If it’s too small, you could lose control of the boat and cause a severe accident.

Frequently Asked Questions on your Boat Capsizing

What Is Heeling and Does It Mean That My Boat Is About to Capsize?

All boats heel to some extent. Heeling occurs when the wind fills the sail, creating pressure that pushes the sail down and the boat up. The boat will heel to whichever side the vessel sails are. Some boats, such as keelboats, have huge ballasts that allow extensive heeling. Healing may be scary to new cruisers and sailors, but if you do it correctly and your boat is designed to heel, there is no reason to worry about it.

What Is the Best Treatment for Hypothermia Other Than Seeking Medical Attention?

Here is how to prevent body cooling before taking the victim to a medical facility.

Gently move the victim to a warm place
Check for heartbeat and breathing
If you have a blanket or dry clothes, remove the victim’s damp clothes. Do it with little body movement since rough handling may result in cardiac arrest. Tear off the clothes, if necessary.
To prevent a stroke caused by improper handling, keep the victim in the same position you rescued them.
Wrap the victim in dry clothes or a blanket. If possible, make the clothes warm first. If you have a stocking cap, put it on the victim’s head since a significant amount of heat is lost from the head.
When the person is awake and coherent, give them warm liquids. Slightly-cooled hot chocolate or warm hot teas are good since sugars can still be absorbed even when the stomach is not functioning.

Should You Swim to Shore If Your Boat Capsizes?

Swimming to shore is not always the best option. First, there’s the immediate danger of swimming in a busy harbor or the middle of a lake. Second, swimming against the current makes it much harder for rescuers to find you; and third, you’ll be able to float downstream until help arrives easily. By staying calm and floating downstream with your life jacket on, you can stay afloat while waiting for boat or jet ski rescuers to find you.

Hopefully, you never have to find out what to do if your boat capsizes. But in the event of an emergency, you must know what steps to take and how quickly they need to be taken.

These tips will help keep you safe while protecting your valuable belongings from damage or loss during a sudden overturning situation.

Stay calm and remember these tips when boating season starts again next year – we may see each other out there on the water.

Read: Packing light for a cruise

2 thoughts on “What Should You Do If Your Boat Capsizes?”

  1. Fortunately, in the times I’ve been on the boat, there have been no accidents. But I still read articles like this to avoid it. It is impossible to know what will happen in advance and prepare the most necessary to reduce damage.

  2. We can’t predict what will happen in life. That’s why you need to know what to do if an accident arises and of course, having the right equipment on board is vital.

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