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Tips On Preparing for Boating Emergencies


Cruising SafetyBoating is one of the best pastimes America has to offer. Surrounded by beautiful waters and home to thousands of lakes, the U.S. overall is a huge fan of recreational boating. But with all of this boating comes risks. Although it is considered a relatively safe way to have fun, boating still comes with real world dangers that should be acknowledged and considered when setting out onto the water.

Being prepared means having the tools you need when the moment arises. These tools can be physical items, but they can also mean having the knowledge and confidence to deal with a situation, whatever it might be. Below are some basic tips to both check before you go out on the water.

Check the First Aid Kit

You should have a first aid kit that reflects all of the needs that may arise. This isn’t just sunscreen (though you should have some on board). These are things that are rarely needed but in an emergency or when things get serious, they could save a life or be incredibly important in the event of an accident or crisis. Make sure they are properly stocked with all of the essentials.

Emergency Preparedness "ready to go" kit.And make sure everything is kept clean and dry within sealed bags.

  1. Medications. This includes seasickness pills, aspirin, and Tylenol.
  2. Antiseptics and cleaners. This includes alcohol gel wipes, antiseptic towelettes, and various gauze pads that can be found with first aid kits.
  3. Wound treatments. This includes antibiotic ointments and burn gel.
  4. Bandages. This can include a host of bandages and dressings that may come in handy if there is an injury. But don’t forget good old-fashion Band-aids.
  5. Flares and waterproof matches.
  6. Waterproof blanket.
  7. Miscellaneous Items. These can include extra batteries, scissors, tweezers, and instant cold packs.

Man Overboard

Do you know what to do in this situation? First and foremost, the easiest thing to do is prevent it in the first place. Everyone should be seated while the boat is underway. Make sure gates are closed when out and about.

Don’t let anyone lean over the edge. Children in particular may try to stretch this rule.

If someone does fall overboard, there are three main actions that should be taken.

  1. Stop the engine.
  2. Throw the person a personal flotation device (PFD).
  3. Alert others of the situation.

Other actions to consider and most likely take include raising an orange flag as soon as possible, yelling to other boats nearby “man overboard,” and possibly assign one person to keep a direct view of the person overboard at all times while you or others perform other actions. On top of all of these actions, one of the most important things is keeping calm.

Panicking can cause problems that may hinder any one of the actions being taken.

Boat Capsizing

Boat CapsizingIt depends on the type of boat you are going out on whether this is a very realistic possibility. But for smaller boats and in particularly rough weather, capsizing could be a reasonable fear. Some boats are actually designed in a way so that they are self-righting, but this is relatively rare for recreational boats. Prevention again is an ideal way to keep yourself safe. Don’t take corners too quickly or too hard and know the limitations of your boat.

Again, the first thing to keep in mind if you do capsize is to not panic. Stay with the boat. The shoreline may seem close, but it is probably much further than you think. If it is cold, attempt to get on the boat so that you don’t freeze. Even if it isn’t that cold, you may consider doing that anyways due to the negative effects that staying in the water can cause.

If you are not with the boat, look for buoyant objects or materials (for instance, a cooler) that can possibly help you stay afloat.

Taking on Water

In many cases if there is a leak, it is a small one and you have time to make it back to shore before it is a problem. But in situations where you hit an object at high enough speeds, a hole could be torn in the hull that is big enough to take on water at an extreme rate. Several quick actions could be taken that may help in removing water faster than it is coming into the boat. You could create a basic bailing tool. For example, you could cut off the top of a two-liter bottle of soda.

There are also boat bailing sponges that are sold in stores, which absorb up to 24 ounces of water quickly and easily. Also, if you want to be particularly prepared for this situation, you could purchase a bailing pump that allows for pumping massive of amounts of water out of the boat very quickly.

Running Out of Gas

This could be embarrassing, but also quite dangerous. Not putting enough gas in the engine or just not paying attention to the gas gauge can result in you being stranded a long way from shore. Prevention is certainly the ideal way to avoid this, but being prepared with a couple of particular things can help save the day in this situation.

A spare fuel tank is the most useful thing in this case. Even a small tank with a few gallons of gas could be enough to make it to shore. Also, consider having some emergency paddles stored somewhere. It won’t be fun, but paddling back to shore could be a reasonable option. On top of these, you can also make sure you have flares and/or a bull horn on the boat so that you can signal other boats if you have the opportunity.