Boating Safety Drills

All boaters should get in the habit of staging regular boating safety drills on their vessels. No matter how much we mentally prepare ourselves to handle dangerous on-the-water situations, nothing takes the place of regularly practicing how to respond in an emergency.

Make a list of what could go wrong while underway and establish onboard drills to practice the best step-by-step response to each potential emergency.

For example, after I welcome guests aboard my boat and give my usual safety spiel, I have them locate and put on their life jackets. People need to experience finding and putting on a life jacket, so the process won’t be strange if they must do so in an emergency.

Man overboard

The same goes for man overboard drills. In a real emergency, the fear and adrenaline rush can make remembering how to get a person back on board difficult. Before you leave the dock, have passengers practice saying “man overboard,” pointing to the person in the water, throwing him or her a flotation device, and readying a ladder or the swim platform to lift the person back on deck. Prepare yourself by regularly practicing pushing the MOB button on the GPS and making sure passengers have done their part. Then imagine or practice using a floating dummy or other prop and carefully maneuvering your boat to the person in the water, shutting off the engine, and putting it in gear to immobilize the propeller.

Other drills

You can also practice your response to the following emergencies:

Although practice may not make perfect, holding regular onboard safety boating drills makes it more likely that you will handle emergencies calmly and with authority. 

–Daniel Fannon

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