What is most likely to cause someone to fall overboard? Falling overboard is no joke considering the low temperatures in the ocean.
It’s annoying when you or your passenger falls overboard, and you have no slight idea of what to do.
A simple mistake could lead to death by drowning. What can you do to avoid such risks?
In our write-up today, we’ll dig deep into common causes of someone falling overboard, solutions and preventions.
What are the Common Causes of Someone Falling Overboard?
Being aware of the causes can help you take caution and avoid falling overboard easily. It is the simplest way to keep yourself and other sailors safe when moving on a boat.
So, what causes a person to fall overboard?
The most common cause of people falling overboard is standing up when the boat is moving.
You can now imagine how much of a risk it is when the boat hits rough waters when you’re standing on the railing.
It is more likely for water waves to sway the boat back and forth as it moves. Rough waters increase these movements, leaving you unstable.
Being unstable on a boat makes you lose balance and fall overboard.
Although people still fall overboard from large boats and cruise ships, it is a rare occurrence. Standing when the boat is moving is not the most common cause either.
In most cases, people who fall overboard after standing on a boat are either intoxicated or generally careless.
Even worse, some people fall overboard deliberately as they try to commit suicide.
What Causes People to Stand When the Boat is Moving?
While it’s common sense to avoid standing when the vessel is moving, some people still do that. Below is a list of things that cause people to ignore the boat safety rules regarding standing.
Standing when fishing is a common practice by anglers. Standing lets you move your rod freely and catch fish in a more effective way than while seated.
On one hand, standing lets you do the fishing more easily. But standing to fish when the boat is moving can cause some unexpected “man overboard” events.
If you must go fishing, please wear a certified PFD (personal fl). Even better, go for an automatic life jacket, as many professional anglers do.
Excessive alcohol and drug consumption account for many overboard falls. Being under drugs or alcohol impairs your thinking and judgment.
Intoxication can block you from pointing danger in taking an action like standing on a boat when it’s moving.
Some overboard falls are just out of pure carelessness. A person may decide to stand when a boat is moving just to put up a show on social media or impress others.
The following actions are reckless and can easily land you in falling overboard trouble:
- Climbing the railing when the boat is moving
- Recreating risky acting like the popular Titanic movie film
- Taking pictures in precarious positions
Which is the Best Thing To Do After Seeing Someone Falling Overboard?
It’s normal to get shocked when a person falls overboard. What you shouldn’t do is let the shock hold you back from offering help.
Immediately after a person falls overboard:
- Sound the alarm
An alarm will help you get help from sailors nearby. Turn the bow into the direction of the person overboard while sounding the alarm.
It is also important to stop the engines immediately.
The next step should be to throw a buoyant object to help the person float and mark their position.
- Let one person keep the person overboard in sight
Sailing a boat on your own isn’t a good idea. The company helps you at the time of need.
Let the other person onboard keep checking the person in water to help you retain details of their position.
- Maneuver the vessel carefully to pick the person overboard up
As the person overboard holds onto the buoyant object, move the boat carefully towards them.
Get the third person to help the person overboard get back to the boat.
- Stand firmly as you lift the person overboard into the boat
Many rescuers have been pulled into the water by victims while trying to help people overboard out of the water. You need to be careful not to fall into the water while trying to save a person overboard.
How Do You Prevent Falling Overboard?
If you’re worried about falling overboard. Remain centered in the boat, with your center of gravity low in the boat.
That simply means you avoid standing, as it heightens your center of gravity and makes you unstable. Always keep your shoulders between gunnels (sides of the boat.)
Here are a few things to do to minimize the risk of falling overboard:
- Have a person overboard drill and practice it often to stay ready for uncertain conditions.
- Wear a life jacket whenever traveling on a boat. It will save your life if you fall overboard or fall in the water because of collisions, capsizing, or swamping.
- Avoid alcohol and drugs. As the driver, you must stay under the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) legal limit.
- Stay in the alcohol legal limit, even if you’re a passenger. It reduces your risk of falling overboard. It also puts you in a better position to take action in case of a collision or when the vessel capsizes or swamps.
- Never ride on the bow of a powered vessel when it’s underway. This heightens your risk of falling overboard.
Can You Survive Falling Overboard?
Falling overboard is a horrifying experience that no one would like to go through.
But do people always die when they fall overboard? No.
But survival rates depend on several factors:
- Whether you were injured by the impact with the water or part of the ship on the way down.
- How quickly the cruise ship or coast guard can rescue you.
Many times, the person falling overboard dies before landing in the water. The impact with the water or with part of the ship can be that dangerous, especially on rough waters.
How Long Can You Survive After Falling Overboard?
Your survivability can be between an hour or more, depending on the temperatures of the water you fell overboard.
You can survive for:
- An hour in 5-degree Celsius water
- Two hours in 10-degrees Celsius water
- Six hours in 15-degrees Celsius water
How Can You Prevent Your Passengers From Falling Overboard?
People fall overboard, even in calm waters. Taking caution beforehand saves you from such unprecedented events.
Even better, prior preparation helps you face the problem with adequate skills and manpower.
You can prevent your passengers from falling overboard by:
- Ensure they all have suitable US Coast Guard-approved life jackets on whilst the boat is moving.
- Have an ignition safety switch lanyard attached to you to act as a kill switch in case of an accident.
- Don’t allow passengers to sit on the gunwale, bow, seat backs, motor cover, or any other area not designed for seating.
- Keep your passengers away from pedestal seating when the boat is moving over an idle speed.
- Do not overload your boat with passengers or gear.
- Check for the weather forecast to avoid traveling
- Make sure to keep your center of gravity low, meaning passengers should not stand up or move around the boat deck whilst the vessel is in motion.
- Slow down the boat when turning to prevent passengers from falling overboard.
What Should You Do if You Fall Overboard?
You can help yourself out if you fall overboard by taking some things into consideration.
The essential ones are the:
- Distance to the shore
- Distance from your vessel
Consider swimming to the shore if it’s not far from where you fell overboard.
But when the shore is far away, you must stay close to the vessel to avoid losing track of people with potential to rescue you.
Try to hold onto the vessel, or even attempt climbing back if it’s close to you.
Alternatively, you may hold onto any other floating object close to you.
All your effort should focus on keeping as much of your body as possible.
If you’re riding a personal watercraft (PWC) or a small powerboat with a kill switch lanyard, it will shut down the engine when you fall into the water. This gives you a chance to climb back on.
Try to climb on at the stern.
Falling overboard is likely to happen when you stand on a vessel when it’s moving. While most people fall overboard unknowingly, others do it willingly.
Some of the reckless reasons that cause people to fall overboard include:
- Intoxication by alcohol or drugs
The only way out of this trouble is to hold onto a buoyant object or try getting back to the ship.You can also try to swim to the shore if it’s close.
Always have a life jacket on whenever you’re on a boat to be able to float in case you fall overboard.