Don’t fall overboard! But if you do… how can you stay safe? We’ve talked plenty about boat safety, but let’s talk about surviving a capsized boat.

The Dangers of a Capsized Boat

Water safety on the open water is just as important as poolside safety. When it comes to boating safety, let’s cover at a very specific aspect of this topic that we haven’t yet covered. Today, we’ll take a closer look at what to do if you find yourself trapped in a capsized boat.

Believe it or not, when a person is out on the open water, one of the leading causes of death and injuries is a capsized boat. It is easy for an inexperienced boater to become trapped under an overloaded craft. Additionally, as always, weather plays a heavy role in surviving a capsized boat.


The best way to avoid the dangers of a capsized boat is to prevent the accident in the first place. First of all, check the weather forecast. When it comes to dangerous weather on the water, knowing is half the battle.

Before heading out, be sure to check and double check the forecast. Additionally, never head out alone. Even so, be sure to leave a note for your friends and family on your departure time and when you expect to return. This can provide a valuable safety net for sailors and boaters alike.

Next, make sure not to overload the boat with cargo or passengers. This is remarkably easy to do, so take extra care to avoid it. Careful preparation can go a long way toward avoiding disaster. Before heading out, inspect your boat for leaks or potential problems that could lead to an accident. It’s better to take the time for these extra safety measures.

Don’t Panic if Your Boat Capsizes

Okay, so the worst has happened. You have found yourself in a capsized boat in rough waters. The first course of action is to remain calm.

This may seem easier said than done, but panic will never help in a dangerous situation. You will want to remain in control. Stay as calm as possible and plan your next move.

If you were not alone on the boat, your first move should be to locate your fellow passengers. After making sure no one was injured, keep close to each other.

Stay Afloat

If you are on a boat, you should be wearing a U.S. Coast Guard approved life preserver. A life jacket can help to keep you afloat if you find yourself suddenly thrown overboard or in a capsized boat. Adults should always make sure that their kids are wearing their life jacket properly. For example, their jacket should fit snugly. A loose life jacket could easily slip off.

If you do not have an approved life jacket, try to grab hold of any floating object. These can help you to conserve energy. Staving off exhaustion is critical in any potential drowning situation.

Besides a floatation device, swimming lessons are be another step towards saving your life. Knowing basic swimming competency techniques can help you stay above the water until help arrives.

Surviving a Capsized Boat: Beware of the Cold

Cold water shock is another serious concern for boaters. One moment, the boat is floating peacefully; the next it could suddenly flip. Surviving a capsized boat can be tricky. This leaves people dunked in potentially freezing water. At this point, you are immediately at risk for cold water shock. Over time, this poses a risk of hypothermia.

Try to huddle together with other survivors for warmth. Keep everyone’s chests close together with legs and arms wrapped around each other. This can help to conserve as much warmth as possible.

As mentioned above, try to grab onto floating wreckage. This can keep more of your body out of the frosty cold water. If possible, do not swim for warmth. Again, you do not want to get too tired.

Don’t Leave the Boat

A very important safety tip for dealing with a capsized boat is to remain near the boat. A boat is much easier for rescuers to find. If you or another party member attempts to swim for shore, it is significantly easier to become lost at sea. This is quite dangerous. Instead, stay by the visible boat wreckage. This will give you the best chance of being noticed. Waiting for help is key to surviving a capsized boat.

Remember, if your boat capsizes, the number-one concern is survival. Leave possessions alone until you are safe. Above all, safety is the priority.