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Man Overboard

Updated: Sep 21, 2023

Janet Palmer’s Safety Class last Saturday included some very good tips about what to do if a boat flips/swamps/ or otherwise commits its occupants to the drink. Some are  mentioned in Quad Flip – Lessons Learned after one of our quads flipped several years ago.

Perhaps the biggest one is why to wear a PFD – especially in cold water . Watch Cold Water Boot Camp (below).

If you end up in the water…

1-If you can’t get back in the boat after very few attempts, deploy your PFD immediately. USCG estimates life jackets could have saved 50% of all fatalities. Do not try to swim to shore.

2-Keep your head above water and stay with the boat. Keep your face out of the water and the back of your head toward the waves.

3-Huddle together next to the boat. Your body warmth will create a pool of warm water around you. Plus you’ll make it easier for rescuers to find you.

4-If the shell has turned turtle – or keel side up – it can be used for floatation

5-Buddy up and lock wrists across the shell and pull your head, chest, and as much of your body out of the water as possible. Heat loss in the water is 25 times greater than it is in air.

6- If a boat is swamped, the weight may soon exceed the floatation in the ends, causing the boat to break up (see Swamped! for what to do in those situations).

What to do if you’re in a nearby (non-capsized) shell.

1-Stay clear of the launch’s rescue efforts. Look out for each other since the launch will be tending to the people in the water.

2-Don’t try to pull people in your boat. Get them a pfd if they have none and stay close to them if their boat is no longer afloat.

3- Call 911. The launch driver can radio the ferry who – someone pointed out – performs more rescue operations on the water than anyone else. 911 calls can be time consuming and the launch driver will certainly be busy. Janet pointed out that 911 will deploy the necessary agencies and that people on shore are much better equipped to handle medical emergencies.

Fun Facts and more links

Oars make efficient floatation devices.

The biggest cause of overturned singles is an unlocked gate

Marsha added this Capsized Safety Video for rowers on 1/13/16


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