Capsizing or sinking while out on the water can be a scary and dangerous situation. Staying calm and taking the proper steps is key to surviving until help arrives.
Assess the Situation
First, take a head count and account for all passengers. Make sure everyone is wearing a life jacket. If not, try to find any floating items that can be used for flotation. Coolers, paddles, and other debris can help keep you afloat.
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Stay With the Boat
If possible, try to stay with the capsized boat. Most modern boats will not fully sink even when swamped with water. Use the boat for flotation support and get as much of your body out of the water as possible. Hypothermia can set in quickly in cold water.
Signal for Help
Use whistles, signal mirrors, flags or flares from your safety kit to get the attention of other boats nearby. Wave your arms and call for help. If you have an emergency radio or cell phone in a waterproof bag, use it to call for assistance.
Swim to Shore as a Last Resort
Swimming to shore should only be a last ditch effort. It’s energy-intensive and you may end up farther from rescuers. If you must swim, take turns with a buddy and use a flotation device or debris for support.
Prevent Future Capsizing
To avoid capsizing in the future, make sure not to overload your boat. Distribute weight evenly. Watch weather reports and avoid rough conditions. Conduct regular maintenance and check for leaks. Take a safe boating course to improve your skills.
Capsizing can happen to even experienced boaters. But staying calm, signaling for help, and using flotation devices can greatly increase your chances of survival until rescue arrives. With the proper preparation, a capsizing incident doesn’t have to become a tragedy.