Boating is fun. And it can be more so when you’re out with friends or family.
From planning activities and dresses to ensuring sunscreens, you should do everything that buzzes the excitement.
While that is great, you and I must never overlook planning for unpleasant circumstances. Protective gears and essential knowledge about boat safety is more crucial than you might imagine.
Among the boating accidents that occur, falling overboard is a major one. According to a 2016 report by Cruise Lines International Association, approximately 19 people go overboard on cruises and ferries every year.
While that’s not a large number, why take the risk and fall in the odds?
Let’s go over this quick guide to know everything about such a situation.
Common Reasons for Falling Overboard
Ships are built with two primary factors in mind – purpose, and safety. You may know how scary and dominating the waters can get. Thus, as long as you don’t test your safety limits, you will be able to maximize the boat’s safety features.
Among the most common causes of falling overboard is standing up. This may sound silly, but it is true. Balance in a boat is crucial, be it of people or gears. The waves and motion can cause one to lose balance and fall overboard.
So try to remain seated and only stand up if it’s necessary.
This applies more to smaller boats like sail ships. As for the ferries and cruises, alcohol is a significant contributing factor. Drinking alcohol near the edge of the vessel or its deck is risky. People tend to go dizzy, lose control, and fall overboard.
Apart from standing and drinking, it is carelessness and irresponsible attitude that can result in an overboard situation.
Boats have a thumb rule of having at least one hand on the boat when moving or standing. So, you can put yourself in quite a lot of danger if you ignore this basic and easy-to-follow rule.
Furthermore, not making appropriate usage of all the handholds, toe rails, and lifelines is also simple carelessness that can result in a major accident.
Ways to Prevent an Overboard Situation
Understanding the common reasons for falling overboard makes it easy to identify ways to prevent such a traumatic situation.
Of course, it is challenging to predict safety when the sea is rough, but you might be surprised to know that most overboard accidents occur in calm waters.
What does that indicate? That these situations are easily preventable. Find out how:
Follow the Thumb Rule
As stated earlier, a thumb rule on the boat is to have at least one hand on the ship while moving or standing. Remember, the sea does not keep your back as dry land does. So, stay in control, and follow the required measures. After all, how much effort does it take anyway?
Stay Clear From the Edges While Drinking
Yes, you’re out in the sea to have fun with a couple of friends and drinks. But, testing limits is no fun. Many incidents of falling overboard occur due to drinking near the edges or the deck. So, while drinking or even after it, stay away from the edges.
Furthermore, a good idea would be to let someone know about your whereabouts beforehand. Also, when you feel dizzy, get inside and lie down until you’re sober.
Avoid Emotional Conversations Near the Edge
Emotions can make anyone lose a certain level of contact with reality. It is easy to get lost in the moment and miss out on following the safety measures. Whether it’s a romantic, intimate conversation, or a full-blown argument, try to stay indoors when the emotions rage.
Stay Inside During Rough Waters
When the waters are wild, the deck usually gets slippery, and the wind picks up a dangerous speed. Both of these factors increase the likelihood of an unfortunate overboard situation. Hence, it is wise and safe to stay inside during choppy waters.
Make Use of Non-Slip Shoes
In case you do need to go out on the deck during rough waters, wear non-slip shoes for your safety.
All in all, you will find that small measures, when taken at appropriate times, can go a long way in keeping you safe. Engaging in risky behaviors may sound thrilling and courageous at the moment, but they can bear you significant loss in the long run.
How to Save an Overboard Passenger?
A guide to overboard safety is incomplete without addressing ways to save an overboard passenger.
The following series of steps can help to bring the passenger back to safety:
- Once the overboard situation is identified, immediately raise the ‘Man overboard’ alarm. The quicker the entire crew becomes aware of the problem, the better.
- Keep a close eye on the overboard passenger and track him. The person may appear and disappear with the movement of waves. Tracking may prove particularly tricky during night time with pitch-black water, but try not to lose sight.
- Toss a life ring or anything that floats near the person to support him to stay afloat. This will assist the member till a rescue team reaches him.
- If it’s a small boat that can turn quickly, take a u-turn to the person’s location. Bigger vessels and cruisers for which turning isn’t easy, a smaller staffed boat, identified as a MOB boat, can be used to save the victim.
These steps will prove helpful in ideal situations. However, at certain times, the person lands in water in a way that leaves close to zero survival chances for him. Thus, it is not always the case that onboard people can help the overboard passenger.
What Should an Overboard Passenger Do?
The trick is to remain calm and hopeful as much as possible.
This may sound almost impossible. How can anyone who’s fallen in the sea stay calm while gasping for life? Well, history had recorded the story of a MOB man in the Indian Ocean who remained in the sea for 29 hours before he was rescued! His trick? Staying calm.
This is the single essential key between life and death during such a situation. So, drill it like a mantra. No matter what, stay calm and hopeful.
Restricting your movement is also recommended to conserve energy. If possible, try to lie down on the water as you would lie on a bed. Keep your hands apart and legs hanging up. When you stay in control, water does not try to control you.
You may even play the dead Man’s float if your senses allow – all this until the rescue team reaches you. It can seem like an eternity, but following these instructions can grant you back your life.
This brings me to the end of my guide. I hope you got everything you need to know about the overboard situation.
As you might have noticed, the preventive measures are much more comfortable and simpler to follow than the rescue instructions. Hence, always stay upright when in the sea.
Never forget that the more in control you are of yourself, the lesser the sea is in control of you. Have fun boating but stay careful!