Falling Overboard!

October 06, 2023

Be prepared to resolve the situation yourself. Drill! Drill! Drill! Turning a vessel around quickly and heading back in the right direction to retrieve a person isn’t always easy when you’ve been taken by surprise, particularly at night. As a navigator, you need to practice, so you can get back to retrieve your crew mate swiftly and efficiently. Start with these basic rescue steps but do your homework online to get fully trained.

  • Call out to alert everyone on board.
  • Locate the person in the water and keep an eye on them at all times. Point at them constantly, so the helmsman can see you. With waves, tide and movement of the vessel, it is very easy to lose track of your victim.
  • Toss a flotation device into the water for the victim to latch on to. Remember Throw- Don’t Go!
  • At night, throw a floating light to mark the location.
  • Press the overboard button on your chart plotter, smart watch or VHF. Use all of your technology. Your emergency call for help can be canceled if you end up not needing assistance.
  • Assign a crew member to notify the Coast Guard on VHF channel 16 with location and description.
  • Turn the vessel back toward the victim to pick them up. There are several different types of turns used to quickly return to a point of origin. Do your home work and practice maneuvering your boat. Be a hero and do it right the first time in an emergency.
  • Once the boat is at the victim's side, toss a lifeline and tow them in and then pull the victim into the boat. 

The best plan is to be aware and try to avoid going overboard in the first place but if it does happen, make sure you have a practiced plan in place. There are tons of educational videos on YouTube. Plus the BoatUS Foundation has additional information at boatus.org/crew-overboard/tips. Have a great autumn, but try not to fall! (I just couldn’t resist) As always, happy to help.