man falling overboard

How Can You Reduce the Risk Of Falling Overboard?

In the United Kingdom, there are an estimated 450 drownings per year. That number is much higher in the United States. Statistics estimate that roughly 6,500 Americans drown every single year.

One of the most common causes of drowning is falling overboard while riding on a small vessel. This doesn’t mean that you should sit at home and live in a bubble. Still, you must use some common sense and take some precautions to keep yourself safe. Within this guide, you’re going to learn how to reduce your risk of falling overboard as a passenger on a small boat.

Center of Gravity

If you’re going to be riding in a small craft, you need to take extra special care to ensure that you do not fall overboard.

One of the best ways to reduce the risks is by relying on your center of gravity. You need to keep yourself situated in the center of the boat. Simultaneously, you should make sure that your center of gravity is very low. To prevent the boat from tipping to one side, you always need to keep your shoulders inside of the gunwales.

Try to find a comfortable spot and remain as stationary as possible.

Remain Still

A lot of people fall overboard because they move around far too much. Unless it is necessary to do so, you should remain still in the boat. Do not move around so frequently. When you do need to move, you should always keep three points of contact with the boat. Keep two hands on the boat and move one foot. Or, you can keep two feet on the boat and move a single hand. Try to restrict your movement and always keep a firm grip on the boat one way or another.

Even Distribution

Another problem that people make is distributing the weight in the wrong way. This is going to be a big problem since it will cause the boat to lean in one direction or another. Before hitting the water, it is vital to make sure that the weight is evenly distributed. Remember to balance all of the weight in the boat. This includes the occupants and all of your gear. At the same time, it is vital to avoid overloading the boat.

If you really do not need to bring something with you, it is best to leave it at home. After all, a small boat cannot carry as much weight as a bigger boat and that makes it much easier to overload.

Remain Clearheaded

It is very common for people to fall overboard because they ride in the boat without a clear head. They have either abused substances or alcohol that day or they have too much on their mind. These are two problems that you’ll want to avoid no matter what. If you’re going to be boating, you should not be drinking. Boating and drinking never mix! Make sure that you’re going to be levelheaded enough to react appropriately in the event of an emergency. You just never know what is going to happen out there on the water.

Slow Down

It is true that a lot of people love the thrill of an adrenaline rush. There is nothing wrong with this, but you always have to take your safety in mind. Speeding is one of the leading causes of drownings and boat crashes. It is a good idea to slow down. Try to make sure that the boat’s speed matches the conditions of the water. If you are speeding, there is a greater risk that problems are going to occur.

I have a guide on avoiding boat collisions which you may find useful.

Be Realistic About Your Skill Level

Biting off more than you can chew is more common than you might believe. And, you probably do it in many areas of life. This is something that is not acceptable when it comes to boating.

If you’re going to piloting a small vessel, you need to be realistic about your skill level. You may mistakenly believe that you can handle those harsh waters. If you’re wrong, you’re going to be putting yourself and your occupants at risk. Is it really worth it?

Never overestimate your skill level or it may be the last mistake that you make out on the water.

Wear Your PFD

Finally, you should always wear your personal flotation device which should be part of your emergency kit. It might not prevent you from going overboard, but it could very well save your life. In fact, you should never get onto a boat without having a PFD nearby. This is a gamble that you do not want to take. If you don’t already have one, you can buy one here.

Other Boating Exam Questions


A day out on the water can be tons of fun. However, it could turn into a nightmare if someone falls overboard. Therefore, you should familiarize yourself with this risk and the ways to reduce that risk. Do that and you will increase the likelihood that everyone is going to return home happy with plenty of memories to share.

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