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What to Do if Someone Falls Overboard

Here are seven things you should do if someone falls overboard

How-To On the Water
What to Do if Someone Falls Overboard

Unless the day’s intention is watersports, staying on the dry side of the water is the goal of any safe boating trip. Whether it’s a short jaunt around a familiar lake, exploring a new, uncharted fishing spot, or towing a wakeboarder, intended entry should be the only way someone gets into the water.

But boating can have unexpected moments from another boat’s wake, for example, and if the captain or a passenger isn’t prepared, falling off-balance could mean falling over the rail. Do you know what to do if someone falls overboard?

In this harrowing situation, it’s easy to lose your bearings. Here are seven things you should do if someone falls overboard.

Immediately yell “man overboard!”

Alert everyone on the vessel that there’s a person in the water. Seconds matter in this situation, and bellowing as loud as possible, “MAN OVERBOARD!” immediately is necessary. Instantly, everyone’s focus will shift to doing what’s necessary to locating and helping the person in the water.

Subsequently, at least one person should maintain visual contact with the person who fell overboard at all times. That will be their role until the person has been retrieved from the water.

Throw a flotation device

If there’s a horse buoy or PFD close at hand when the person goes overboard, throw it as near to them as you can, even before the boat throttles down. If the man overboard isn’t wearing a PFD, swimming to a buoyant object nearby could save their life while the boat circles back to help.

Stop the vessel

As quickly as safely possible, stop the boat and cut the engine. Spinning propellers can cause immense injuries if the person in the water is nearby. Besides, it’s possible that you can retrieve the passenger without restarting the engine if you shut down soon enough.

Press the MOB button

If your vessel has a MOB button, push it when the person enters the water. This marks the coordinates via GPS to help you locate the passenger. It’s especially important if there’s only one or two people aboard or there’s poor visibility, so you can retrieve them quickly and accurately.

Carefully navigate back to the person

The boat’s momentum can carry you far from the overboard person, or the current could do the same. If necessary, restart the engine and carefully return to their location. This is where maintaining a visual is so important – if you can’t see the person overboard, it’s possible you could cause further injuries if you hit them with the boat. Go slow, and when you are near enough, toss them a line to pull them close rather bringing the boat in close.

Get them aboard

Swiftly but safely, bring the passenger aboard. They may be able to climb onto a swim platform or you may need to provide assistance pulling them over the rail. Be careful as they may be injured. If they’re unconscious, support their neck and back as well as you can to prevent aggravating it further.

Get help

If someone hasn’t done so yet, call emergency services. The faster your reaction time, the better the chances are to get the help necessary. It’s always possible to have them stand down if the overboard person is alright, but minutes could be the difference between a positive outcome and one that’s much less desirable.

1stMate MOB alert system

Wearing a 1st Mate fob makes the “typical” MOB response so much easier and safer, allowing for precise tracking and better response time. If it’s the captain that’s gone over and they’re wearing a 1st Mate fob, the MOB function will immediately shut down the engine once the fob senses the water, and  1st Mate can be set up to notify a trusted person or emergency services with the boater’s location. If it’s the captain or a passenger wearing a 1st Mate fob that goes overboard, an MOB marker will automatically be set and their location tracked.

Want to know more about 1st Mate and its benefits? Go to 1stmate.com for more information or contact your local Mercury Marine dealer to hear what 1st Mate can do for you.

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