Emergency: Falls Overboard

Most boating fatalities are the result of drowning from falls overboard. This can be easily prevented by all boaters wearing their PFDs.

If someone falls overboard, you must be able to locate and retrieve them quickly, even at night or in rough weather, and especially in cold water. Boat operators need to provide instructions to their passengers on how to assist in the quick recovery of a person overboard.


The following procedure should be used if someone does fall overboard:

  • Sound the alarm immediately;
  • Slow down, stop if possible, and throw the person something buoyant to help stay afloat (it will serve as a marker if they become submerged);
  • Assign one person to keep sight of the person overboard and to continuously point at their location;
  • Manoeuver (carefully) to a position on the downwind side to recover the person (so that the person drifts toward the rescue vessel);
  • As soon as you are close enough, throw the victim a buoyant heaving line or a lifebuoy secured to your boat with a line.
  • Always try to recover the person over the windward side of the boat; and
  • Be sure to turn off the propeller/engine on the vessel when retrieving from the stern.