Person overboard

All boaters should know what to do if someone falls overboard, and how to recover them safely.

Regularly practise what to do if someone ends up in the water, so everyone onboard is prepared to act quickly.

What to do if someone falls overboard

  1. Slow down immediately
  2. Most importantly, do not jump in after them
  3. Shout "person overboard" to alert people around you
  4. Throw a lifebuoy ring, horseshoe or lifejacket to them
  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 head-down activities
  6. Establish your position using shore marks or your GPS position. An accurate position will help search and rescue
  7. Position the vessel to bring the person alongside, preferably into wind. If the person is close to the propeller, put the motor in neutral or switch off the motor to avoid propeller strike.

Helping them back on

  1. 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
  2. Ropes, a sail or blanket may be passed under them in the water and used to lift and roll them back into the vessel
  3. A person recovered from the water may be hurt, cold or exhausted. Keep them lying down if possible
  4. Treat the effects of cold water immersion.

Reduce the risk

  • Skippers must follow operating rules – including keeping a proper lookout at all times when underway.
  • Wear a lifejacket. It can save your life if you fall overboard or end up in the water because of collision, capsizing or swamping.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs – as the driver, you must stay under the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) legal limit.
  • Passengers should also stay under the limit to reduce risk of falling overboard and improve their ability to take action if needed.
  • Never ride on the bow of a powered vessel when it's underway. This significantly increases your risk of falling overboard.

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