Man overboard

This page contains important information on what to do if someone falls overboard, including how to raise the alarm and how to recover them.

It's a good idea to practice your 'man overboard' drill often.

What to do if someone falls overboard

  1. Most importantly, do not jump in after them
  2. Shout "man overboard" to raise the alarm
  3. Throw a lifebuoy ring, horseshoe or lifejacket to them
  4. Check your bearings relative to prominent landmarks if available. Mark where the event occurred on a map, GPS or chart plotter. This will assist if a search is required
  5. Keep them in sight at all times. Ask someone on board to point continuously at the person in the water for the reference of the master and others on board who may be preparing equipment or other headdown activities
  6. Turn the boat toward the side they fell from (if the person is close to the propeller, put the motor in neutral or switch off the motor to avoid striking them with a turning propeller). 

How to recover a person overboard

  1. Position the vessel to bring the person alongside, preferably into wind
  2. Stop engines to avoid striking them with a turning propeller
  3. Help the person into the vessel, preferably over the stern, as a small vessel might capsize or take water if you try taking them in over the side. On yachts with overhanging sterns, they should be pulled in at the lowest point of freeboard. Consider installing a boarding ladder on your vessel
  4. Ropes, a sail or blanket may be passed under them in the water and used to lift and roll them back into the vessel
  5. A person recovered from the water may be hurt, cold or exhausted. Keep them lying down if at all possible. Our cold water immersion page has information on how to treat the effects of cold shock and hypothermia.

Photo of a capsized boat