Friday, June 19, 2009

Capsizing a Small Boat

Capsizing is when a boat turns on its side or turns completely over. Swamping occurs when a boat stays upright and fills with water. Sometimes a person falling overboard from a boat causes the boat to capsize or swamp. Regardless, the outcome is the same, people are in the water.

To help prevent and prepare for capsizing, swamping, or someone falling overboard, follow these guidelines.

Make sure that you and your passengers are wearing life jackets while the boat is underway.
Attach the ignition safety switch lanyard to your wrist, clothes, or life jacket.

Don't allow anyone to sit on the gunwale, bow, seat backs, motor cover, or any other area not designed for seating. Also, don't let anyone sit on pedestal seats when operating at a speed greater than idle speed.

Don't overload your boat. Balance the load of all passengers and gear. Keep your center of gravity low by not allowing people to stand up or move around while underway, especially in smaller, less-stable boats. In a small boat, don't allow anyone to lean a shoulder beyond the gunwale.

Slow your boat appropriately when turning.

Don't risk boating in rough water conditions or in bad weather.

When anchoring, secure the anchor line to the bow, never to the stern.

If you should capsize or swamp your boat, or if you have fallen overboard and can't get back in, stay with the boat if possible. Your swamped boat is easier to see and will signal that you are in trouble. Also signal for help using other devices available (visual distress signals, whistle, mirror).

If you made the mistake of not wearing a life jacket, find one and put it on. If you can't put it on, hold onto it. Have your passengers do the same. Take a head count. Reach, throw, row, or go, if needed. If your boat remains afloat, try to reboard or climb onto it in order to get as much of your body out of the cold water as possible. Treading water will cause you to lose body heat faster, so try to use the boat for support. If your boat sinks or floats away, don't panic.

If you are wearing a life jacket, make sure that it is securely fastened, remain calm, and wait for help. If you aren't wearing a life jacket, look for one floating in the water or other floating items (coolers, oars or paddles, decoys, etc.) to help you stay afloat. Do your best to help your passengers find something to help them float and stay together. If you have nothing to support you, you may have to tread water or simply float. In cold water, float rather than tread to reduce hypothermia.

If someone on your boat falls overboard, you need to immediately:

Reduce speed and toss the victim a PFD, preferably a throwable type, unless you know he or she is already wearing a life jacket. Turn your boat around and slowly pull alongside the victim, approaching the victim from downwind or into the current, whichever is stronger. Stop the engine. Pull the victim on board over the stern, keeping the weight in the boat balanced, especially in small boats.

Small craft boaters need to be careful to avoid falling overboard. Falling overboard and drowning is the major cause of fatalities for small boats. To prevent falling overboard:

Keep centered in the boat with your center of gravity low in the boat. Always keep your shoulders between the gunwales. If possible, don't move about the boat. If you must move, maintain three points of contact. That is, keep both hands and one foot or both feet and one hand in contact with the boat at all times. Evenly distribute and balance the weight of persons and gear within the boat, keeping most of the weight low. It is extremely important not to overload a small boat.

Sitting on the gunwale, bow, seat backs, or any other area not designed for seating is risky behavior and can result in falling overboard. It is illegal in many states.