Avoid These Five Types of Boating Emergencies

Spending the day on your boat is a great way to relax and de-stress from the world around you. You soak up the warm sunshine while enjoying a cold drink. Your family or friends are along for the ride, sharing one of your favorite experiences.

In fact, you might become so relaxed that you don’t pay attention to the boat or your surroundings – and that’s when you find yourself in trouble. Learn how to avoid five potential boating emergencies that could wreck your day – or worse.

Running Aground

In most cases, running aground is a mere inconvenience. If you’re motoring or sailing along at low speed, and you suddenly end up in shallow water, the boat will simply come to a stop. First, ensure that everybody’s fine, and collect everything that fell on the floor. Then, use the engine to move the boat into deeper water.     

If you’re screaming along at almost the speed of sound, however, you can do some real damage to the prop(s) and possibly the boat’s keel. And, there’s the potential for serious injury as everyone on the boat will be thrown around when the boat suddenly comes to a stop.

To minimize the chances of running aground, learn about your local waters. If your lake is linked to power generation facilities, the water levels likely rise and fall with the seasons. That means less navigable water at certain times of the year. Also, remember that as water levels fall, submerged objects can gradually become more of a hazard.

For the best perspective, buy some local charts and learn how to read them. Familiarize yourself with day markers, lighted buoys, and other navigational aids. Learn to tell where the “skinny water” is. Once you do that, your chances of running aground should diminish, and you’ll build more confidence.

Falling Overboard

Perching on the side of a fast-moving boat provides an adrenaline rush. You watch the powerful bow waves, hang onto your drink, and enjoy the surrounding scenery as the boat races along. When the boat hits another boat’s wake, however, you’re caught completely off guard, and you lose your balance.

Or, you’re on a slower-moving sailboat that has such a comfortable motion that you’re almost lulled to sleep. Suddenly, the wind shifts, the helmsman can’t correct fast enough, and the boat (and you) become unbalanced.

Either way, you may unexpectedly go swimming. Hopefully, everyone (including you) is wearing a Personal Flotation Device (or PFD). Hopefully, everyone on the boat knows what to do in a “Man Overboard” drill. Obtaining this knowledge is key to getting safely back on board.

To greatly minimize the chances of falling overboard, don’t cram too many people or too much weight on board. This is especially the case with smaller open boats, as they have limited weight capacities. Look for a weight capacity statement on the inside edge of the boat’s transom.

Don’t let anyone sit in an area that wasn’t designed for passengers. If you’re the operator, secure the ignition safety switch lanyard to your clothing or wrist.

On-the-water Collisions

You want to avoid on-the-water collisions at all costs. Although many collisions involve two or more boats, a single boat can easily plow into a marker or seawall while the helmsman isn’t paying attention.

Alternatively, he or she may be relying exclusively on GPS navigation to steer a specific course. If the helmsman isn’t also looking at their surroundings, the GPS coordinates will direct the boat right to a specific marker. This is a fairly common cause of on-the-water collisions.

In a slow-speed collision, there will be lots of fiberglass crunching and considerable yelling. There will definitely be some boat damage. With luck, there will only be minor injuries.

A high-speed collision may result in the destruction of both boats, and passengers may be seriously injured and/or thrown in the water. Hopefully they’re wearing PFDs, as they could be knocked unconscious.

Avoid this dangerous scenario by becoming intimately familiar with the location of navigational aids and the navigational rules. In particular, know the rules for two boats that encounter each other on the water.

Always keep a safe speed and distance between your boat and other boats. This is especially important at night or in heavy traffic. Don’t operate your boat when you’re very tired. Above all, don’t ever drink alcohol while boating.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Most people don’t know that odorless carbon monoxide can be a serious hazard on boats. Whenever a fuel source is burned, carbon monoxide is released into the air. The engine exhaust, generator, propane heater, or propane stove are all sources of carbon monoxide. The undetectable fumes can harm you, or even kill you, without warning.

Maybe you’re relaxing in the heated cabin on a cool evening. Or, you’re using the generator to run the air conditioner at anchor. Or, you’re preparing a tasty meal on the propane stove. All of these scenarios put you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Finally, if you’re swimming near the swim platform, recently released exhaust fumes could also make you very sick.

To minimize carbon monoxide risks, keep fresh air circulating throughout the boat regardless of the weather. Install and maintain sufficient carbon monoxide detectors.

Know the locations of the engine and generator exhaust outlets. If you smell exhaust fumes, throw ports and hatches open for ventilation. Finally, keep swimmers away from enclosed areas under or around the swim platform.

Onboard Fire

A fire aboard is a scary situation, as it occurs very suddenly and can often progress quickly throughout the boat. Fires can result from poor fueling practices, engine-related problems, or even cooking-related issues.

Oftentimes, someone will notice a little smoke coming from the engine compartment. When he or she investigates, they immediately see that the fire is well underway and requires immediate action.

Or, let’s say someone is cooking a meal aboard. The flame gets too close to a combustible surface, or some spilled fuel quickly ignites. Suddenly, part of the galley is on fire, and only quick action will result in a positive outcome.

First, stop the boat so moving air can’t continue to fan the flames. Move the boat so the fire is now positioned downwind. Tell everyone to put on a Personal Flotation Device (or PFD), if they aren’t already wearing one. If the fire is near an engine, turn off the fuel supply.

Use your onboard fire extinguisher(s) to fight the flames. Aim the extinguisher at the fire’s base, and sweep the extinguisher back and forth. Remember: Don’t ever pour (or spray) water on grease, electrical, oil, or gasoline fires. Water can actually make these types of fires worse.

Finally, call for help on the VHF marine radio. This is a true emergency, so don’t hesitate to break into an existing conversation.

To minimize the chances of an onboard fire, always fuel the boat safely, and clean up any spills. Do an engine check before each trip, and repeat the process several times while underway. Decide whether it’s safe to cook underway or wait until you’ve arrived at your destination and the anchor is down.

Accessing Important Boat-related Details

Naturally, emotions are running high during a boating emergency. You might revert to the “tunnel vision” necessary to resolve the situation, and your usually sharp recall capabilities may take a back seat. As a result, you may not remember all the required boat-related details when speaking with marine rescue, a towing company, or the United States Coast Guard.

That’s where Boat Name Registry (or BNR) can help. As a BNR member, you can store your boat ownership and insurance information in our secure cloud-based database.

VIP members can store all of their boat-related information, including boat trailer registrations and equipment purchase records, in this secure portal. Click here for full BNR membership details.

Sources https://woodardmarine.com/5-common-boating-emergencies-prevent/ https://www.travelers.com/resources/boating/emergency-preparedness-tips-and-checklist-for-boaters

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Avoid These Five Types of Boating Emergencies

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