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Emergency Situations - Capsizing - Running Aground - Man Overboard- Boat leak

Man overboard

What should you do if you fall overboard?

  • Keep your clothes on;
  • To keep as much of the body out of the water as possible, climb onto the pleasure craft or onto a floating object if there is one nearby;
  • Huddle with other people if you are two or more;
  • If alone, adopt a heat escape lessening position (HELP) to keep your vital organs at the highest temperature possible (maintain body heat);
  • If you are in a group, take a head count to make sure that nobody is missing.

Man overboard

Running aground

A grounded boat describe a vessel that touches the bottom and gets stuck. 

When you run aground in an inboard/outboard vessel, you should shift the weight away from the grounded area of the hull, lift the outdrive part-way then shift into reverse.

What steps should you take after running around?

  • Check the people onboard to make sure no one is injured.
  • Ensure that everyone puts on a personal flotation device;
  • Assess any damage that may have occurred.
  • Is the boat taking on water? If so, find the source of the leak.


What should you do if your boat capsizes?

  • Check the people onboard to make sure no one is injured.
  • Ensure that everyone puts on a personal flotation device; 
  • Keep as close to the boat as possible. Try to climb on it. (A capsized boat is easier to see than a person in the water)
  • Do a head count of those who were on board;
  • Use or display signals to show distress and need of assistance.

If your boat capsizes and you are more than 100m from shore, don’t try to swim to shore!

Waves can be a major factor in capsizing, especially if they are unexpected. Anticipate all waves and aim the bow into them. On approaching waves you should reduce your speed and approach the wave at a 45 degree angle allowing the boat to ease up and over the wave rather than smashing head on. Never travell parallel to the wave as you risk capsizing the craft.

Engine broken down and drifting

If your engine dies and you start drifting toward rocky shore... would you know what to do? Here’s the best course of action:

  1. Alter the speed of the craft;
  2. Anchor the craft;
  3. Investigate the problem;
  4. Correct the problem if possible; or
  5. Use signals to show distress and need for help.

The operator should service and maintain the pleasure craft and its equipment on a regular basis to make sure that they work properly at all times, thus reducing the probability of breakdowns.  

Recovering a person  

What should you do if a person falls overboard?

  • Sound the alarm and immediately become the look-out, which means keeping constant sight of the person who has fallen overboard;
  • Another person will throw something buoyant with a buoyant heaving line
  • The pleasure craft operator must close-in on the person who has fallen overboard, while at the same time slowing down;
  • The operator will approach the person on the wind-ward side;
  • The operator will shut off the motors as soon as the person has grasped the line;
  • Recover the person overboard with a reboarding device or a lifting harness.

To ensure the safety of the pleasure craft’s passengers, it is important to inform each passenger of where the safety equipment is stored onboard, each person’s task in an emergency situation, and the movement of the pleasure craft.  Furthermore, it is important to practice the safety procedures so that the passengers become familiar with them. In the case of a real emergency their chances of survival will increase dramatically.

recovering a person in the water

Leaks on a boat

What to do when your boat springs a leak?

First, find the source of the leak in the hull or of the flooding. Is there a breach in the hull, such as in the water cooling system? Is an underwater device, such as the engine’s water cooling system, defective? Is the rear bailer of the pleasure craft properly closed? Once you have discovered where the water is entering the vessel, stop the leak or the source of flooding if possible.

If there is a breach in the hull below the waterline, use any type of plug (a piece of wood cloth) to close the hole. If it is a crack caused by hitting or rubbing up against rock, you can use an epoxy that hardens ou catalyses underwater. If the hole is on the water line, you must heel (incline the boat) the pleasure craft in order to get the crack out of the water. When the water leak has been sealed, bail the accumulated water from the hold or other compartments of the pleasure craft by using hand-held bailers, manual pumps or bilge pumps. Use or show distress signals to signal that you are in need of assistance. If necessary, use channel 16 with a "MAY DAY" signal and/or use pyrotechnic signals. The pleasure craft operator must always have on board a hull repair kit and tools. A temporary repair will ensure sufficient time in order to get back to shore and stop any excess flooding.

Surviving in cold water

Isothermal clothing

When a boat capsizes in cold water, do everything you can to prevent hypothermia and conserve body heat. Only swim if you can join others or reach a safe haven. Do not swim to keep warm. Extend your survival time by: 

  • Wearing a Canadian-approved lifejacket or PFD. You will lose energy which is vital to survival by trying to keep your head out of the water if you are not wearing one;
  • Climbing onto a nearby floating object to get as much of your body out of or above the water as possible;
  • If possible, adopt a heat escape lessening position (H.E.L.P.): cross your arms tightly against your chest and draw your knees up close to them;
  • Huddle with others and make sure the sides of everyone’s chests are close together, with arms around mid to lower back, and legs intertwined;
  • Protect yourself by wearing a lifejacket or PFD, multiple light layers of dry clothing and a water or wind-proof outer layer.

Other equipment that comes in a variety of styles and names, and provides additional protection from hypothermia includes:

  • Floater or survival suits: a full nose-to-toes PFD;
  • Anti-exposure worksuits: a PFD with a thermal protection rating;
  • Dry suits: to be used with a floatation device and a thermal liner;
  • Wet suits: to be used with a floatation device, traps and heats water against the body;
  • Immersion suits: to be used in extreme conditions when abandoning a vessel (usually for off-shore use).

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