What does it mean to render assistance at sea?

If you happen to witness an accident or a distress signal, you must provide or give help in any way possible, as long as it does not put you, your passengers, or your vessel at risk.

Is rendering assistance to other boaters in distress a requirement or a recommendation?

The United States Code of Federal Regulations that applies to maritime matters requires that the owner, operator or individual in charge of a boat involved in a marine casualty render assistance.

Each vessel owner involved in the marine casualty should give his or her name, address and identification of the vessel to the owner of any other vessel involved in the casualty, to any individual injured, and to the owner of any property damaged.

Violating this requirement can carry a fine and/or imprisonment.

You should always render assistance to other boaters in danger or distress. Do not however put yourself or your boat in danger in rendering such assistance. Don’t panic, have life saving equipment ready and approach the accident carefully. Watch for persons in the water and throw floatation devices to those who do not have one. Talk to the people and assess any injuries they may have. Administer first aid if necessary and get the people to shore as quickly and safely as possible.

Remember, don’t overload your own boat with too many people. If necessary, take victims requiring the most assistance into the boat and throw a line to the others and tow them slowly as you proceed.