Standing or riding on the gunwales or bow of a boat causes most crew-overboard situations. If you must move around in a boat which is underway, stay centered and low, move along the centerline, hold on to both sides and have at least three points of contact with the boat at all times.

  1. Whoever first sees or hears someone go overboard should shout "crew overboard (port or starboard)." This person should become the spotter and continually point to the person in the water until the boat is safely alongside. Try not to lose sight of the crew overboard; it is extremely difficult to locate a person in the water.
  2. Turn the bow of the boat quickly toward the side the person fell over and stop the boat. Turning toward the person will push the stern and propeller away.
  3. Immediately throw a life-saving device toward the person so they will have some assistance in keeping afloat. Your type IV throwable flotation device should always be immediately accessible and within reach of the helm.
  4. Slowly turn the boat and make a gentle turn keeping the person in view.
  5. Approach the person slowly into the wind or current.
  6. Move the boat along side the person and stop the engine
  7. Adjust the weight to keep the boat trimmed and help the person aboard. Usually over the stern.


Boats react differently than cars; they are steered from the stern and rotate around a pivot point. This pivot point is approximately one-third of the way back from the bow when moving forward. If you find yourself in a crew overboard situation, you should turn in the direction of the person overboard. In the illustration, a person fell off the port side. The skipper should turn the boat to port. This will move the stern (and the propeller) to starboard and away from the person in the water.

Do not go into the water to assist the person unless absolutely necessary. If the victim is unable to board or needs further assistance and someone must go into the water, make sure that person is wearing a PFD and is attached to the boat with a line.