Person Overboard Emergency

Over 40% of all boating fatalities are the result of people falling overboard. You should be prepared with the right knowledge and equipment to rescue a person overboard:

  • Ensure that your emergency equipment is properly maintained and readily accessible
  • Practice overboard rescue techniques with your passengers and make them aware of their responsibilities
  • Practice manoeuvring your pleasure craft to properly position your boat so that you’re ready to perform an overboard rescue if an emergency arises
  • Be able to keep in mind the water surface and weather conditions, as well as the condition of the person overboard during a person overboard rescue

Rescuing a Person Overboard

Your first action should be to immediately reduce your speed and prepare to turn around. To rescue the person overboard, perform the following:

Step 1) Immediately throw the person a brightly-coloured, buoyant item such as a life ring or life jacket–this will keep them afloat, increase their visibility in the water and mark their position.

Step 2) Assign another passenger to keep a lookout of the person overboard and continuously point to the overboard person’s location in the water.

Step 3) Carefully manoeuvre the boat turning the bow into the wind and in a downwind position from the victim–you want the person overboard to drift towards the boat.

Step 4) Once in rescue position, shut down the engine to avoid accidental movement and injury (such as a propeller strike).

Use one of the following overboard rescue techniques to recover the person overboard:

Using a buoyant heaving line to rescue a person overboard

1. Use a reaching assist:

  • Move to the side of the boat and keep your weight low
  • Use the reaching assist to pull the victim to the side of the boat and assist them back into the boat

2. Use a buoyant heaving line:

  • Throw the buoyant heaving line so that it lands behind the victim
  • Slowly pull the line towards you so the victim can grab onto it
  • Pull the victim to the side of the boat and assist them back into the boat

3. Use a life ring:

  • Ensure the life ring is secured to the boat with a line
  • Throw the life ring so that it lands behind the victim
  • Slowly pull the line towards you so the victim is able to grab onto it
  • Pull the victim to the side of the boat and assist them back into the boat

Safe Boating Tip

Never jump into the water to rescue the person overboard because if they are panicking and thrashing in the water, they could pull you under.