What should you do to Reduce the Risk of Capsizing or Swamping your Boat in Rough Water?

Capsizing and swamping aren’t new to boaters, if it has never happened to your boat, you might have noticed it with other boats.

It’s really messy to be in such situations, capsizing is more dangerous because if you’re not wearing a life jacket and your emergency toolbox isn’t with you, you’ll find yourself floating on the water.

Let’s just hope you know how to swim and you’re not in the middle of the sea. Capsizing and swamping go together, when a boat rolls over completely or onto its side, it’s called capsizing. When this happens, water fills the boat while floating and that’s called swamping.

Generally speaking, capsizing and swamping are caused by instability. Under normal conditions, a boat is stable on the water until there is a certain factor that disrupts the stability, and in most cases, it’s the weight it carries.

When there is overload or there is the uneven weight distribution, your boat becomes unstable and will cause problems. Capsizing and swamping can be prevented and we’ll share measures you can take in order to minimize the risks.

Navigating the waters can get dangerous, even when you know what you are doing. Many experienced people have been the victims of their boat’s capsizing, especially if they were in rough waters.

The unpredictable nature of the sea can test the mightiest sailors, so it pays to be careful while you are out there.

If you are out on the waters and the sea turns rough, then your boat can end up capsizing. You can also face the serious issues of passengers falling overboard, or your boat swamping.

Anyone can get caught up in a dangerous situation, and you should know what to do if circumstances do not seem to favor you. This article will guide you on what should you do to reduce the risk of capsizing or swamping your boat in rough water.

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Some Facts About Capsizing And Swamping

  • Most of the capsizing and swamping cases happen on small boats.
  • 10% of cases occur on 8-footers like Dinghies.
  • The largest group was the 15–19-foot range which accounted for 41% of reported cases.
  • 26% of reported cases are 20-24 feet boats.
  • Capsizing and swamping mostly occur on fishing boats that are within the range above and that’s mostly because they come with hard-to-drain cockpits.
  • The capsizing of large boats rarely occurs because they’re more stable than small boats.

Causes Of Boat Capsizing And Swamping Your Boat In Rough Water?

What Should You Do To Reduce The Risk Of Capsizing Or Swamping Your Boat In Rough Water?

Almost all capsizing cases can be attributed to three causes and they’re;

  1. Overweight; This is the number one reason why capsizing occurs on boats; owners don’t bother to know the weight specifications especially fishers, and hence they end up turning their boat upside down and end up swamping. You have to know the weight you’re carrying including all passengers and luggage, if you’re fishing, you shouldn’t carry more than your boat can handle.
  2. Uneven weight distribution; The luggage you’re carrying shouldn’t concentrate on one side, or if there are some passengers on the boat, they shouldn’t stand or sit in one place. This will make the boat unstable and get capsized, distributing the weight is important if you want to boat safely.
  3. Bad weather; Small boats aren’t designed for bad weather; they can handle fairly rough water and that too with extra caution. If the water isn’t favorable, you need to postpone your trip or if you’re fishing you should immediately return to your base before you’re capsized.

How To Reduce The Risk Of Capsizing And Swamping

  1. Avoid overload; This is the number one measure you want to take if you want to minimize the risks of capsizing and swamping, don’t carry many people on board, and always minimize the luggage you carry. Check the weight capacity of your boat inside the user guide and for every luggage you’re carrying, you should know its weight, this will help you avoid exceeding the limit.
  2. Distribute the weight evenly; This is crucial especially when you’re on rough water and the weather isn’t favorable as well. Distribute the weight at all positions and even if there is no luggage, the passengers on the boat should stay in different positions on the boat so as to make it more stable.
  3. Passengers should sit while moving; Passengers on the boat shouldn’t be moving around while you’re moving the boat, they shouldn’t stand up nor move while sailing the boat. This will minimize the risk when you’re on rough water.
  4. Avoid going out in bad weather conditions; The water becomes rough in extreme weather, once you notice the weather is changing or a significant decrease in temperature, you need to postpone the trip. You don’t want to go out when it’s raining or when the clouds are formed. Check the weather forecast or seek advice on whether it’s safe to go boating or not.
  5. Avoid rough water beyond the boat’s capacity; Depending on their sizes, boats can handle fairly rough water. If it is beyond its capacity, things can go wrong, you have to be careful when boating on rough water, ensure there is equal weight distribution while sailing and avoid being overweight as mentioned above.
  6. Everyone should wear a life jacket; You don’t need to see bad weather or sense danger coming before instructing all passengers to wear life jackets, it’s the first thing that needs to be done when onboard. In the event that capsizing occurs, you’re safe inside the water and you can make the effort to turn your boat around.
  7. Keep your body centered; if you’re boating alone, you should keep your body at the center of gravity low.

Read Also: Why Do Pontoon Boats Sink?

What should you do to Reduce the Risk of Capsizing or Swamping your Boat in Rough Water?

What should you do to Reduce the Risk of Capsizing or Swamping your Boat in Rough Water?

There are steps and precautions that you can take in case there is ever an emergency while you are out on your boat.

Use Personal Flotation Devices

If you are going to be on a boat, then you should make use of a personal flotation device or a life vest. If your boat is carrying passengers, make sure that they all have life vests that are suitable for their frame, and they have donned them before boarding the boat.

Using a personal flotation device can save a life. In case someone gets thrown overboard, their life vest will protect them and prevent them from drowning. If your boat ends up capsized, then your personal flotation device will keep you afloat till help arrives.

Attach Engine Shut-Off Line to Life Vest

If you are operating the boat, you must ensure that you attach the engine shut-off line to your life vest, wrist, or personal flotation device.

The purpose of the engine shut-off line is to shut off the engine in case the operator of the boat falls overboard or is thrown off their position because of rough seas. This helps the boat from speeding away and leaving you stranded, in case you fall.

Get Rid of Unnecessary Things

There are certain items that are crucial to have in a boat, including water bottles, life vests, and medical supplies. You should get rid of unnecessary things on your boat.

If your boat is overloaded, then it can get unstable, making it dangerous for you and your passengers. An unstable boat lets in water, which increases the chances of it capsizing.

Sit in the Designated Area

There are designated spaces to sit in every boat, and you or your passengers should make it a point to use only those areas, especially when the boat is on water.

The gunwale, seatback, bow, and motor cover of the boat are not meant for sitting and can get dangerous for anyone who tries. Even if you are traveling at a moderate speed, avoid getting too close to areas where you can fall overboard quite easily.

Avoid Speeding

The higher the speed of your boat is, the more difficult it is to control. For the safety of your boat, your passengers, and yourself, you should avoid going at high speeds while you are on the water.

It is best to maintain a moderate to slow speed when you are cruising and make it a point to slow down while turning.

You should avoid racing with other boats or trying to overtake them. There is no obvious right of the way while you are out on the sea, so speeding or racing can land you in an accident.

Keep the Boat Balanced

Overloading your boat with things, or even people drastically increases the chances of your boat capsizing. The weight on your boat should be balanced so that it does not tip over.

If there are too many people on one side of the boat, ask them to spread out so that there is not a lot of weight on any single side.

The same goes for objects or supplies. If you are carrying a lot of things on your boat, make sure that the weight is evenly distributed to avoid any accidents.

Avoid Leaning

If one of your passengers is leaning on the sides of your boat, then you should ask them to move away. The gunwale of the boat is a dangerous place, and no one should be allowed beyond that point.

If someone is leaning out of the boat, then their chance of accidentally falling overboard increases. If your boat is on the smaller side, then the likelihood of accidental falls increases.

Keep the Center of Gravity of your Boat Low

The smaller the boat is, the more unstable it is. While bigger boats are generally safer, if you own a boat that is on the smaller side, you can secure your boat by keeping its center of gravity low. If you are operating a smaller boat, then you should see that none of your passengers are moving freely.

Free movement will cause the boat to become more unstable. You should also insist that people maintain contact with the boat, using their hands and feet, at all times.

If you have a lot of supplies for your boat, consider moving them someplace else. That is another way that can help you keep the center of gravity of your boat low.

Understand How your Boat Works

Boats can be unique, and in order to avoid accidents, you should be familiar with how your boat works. Before you take any other passengers with you, understand how you can maneuver your boat.

You should have a clear idea about how fast it can go, what makes it unstable, and whether you can turn perfectly with your boat before inviting other people to it.

Be Aware of the Weather

Rough weather can challenge even the finest sailor. A large number of collisions, capsizing, and accidents happen when the weather is terrible. Usually, poor weather could mean a rainy day or a foggy day.

Both rain and fog reduce your visibility and that of other vessels. Even when you are alert, and have someone on the lookout, bad weather drastically increases the chances of your boat capsizing.

If there is a storm headed your way, then you should avoid going out with your boat. A storm will make the sea behave unpredictably, and your chance of meeting an accident is high, especially on a smaller vessel.

The Anchor Line should be Secured to the Bow

Boat owners know they should secure their anchor from the bow, and never from the stern of the boat. This is done because of safety reasons.

The bow of the boat is pointed, and it is designed to cut through the resistance of the wind and the waters.

The stern is broader and is not meant to face rough conditions and resistance. Therefore the anchor should be lowered from the bow, and never from the stern.

Using the stern for anchorage can cause damage to your boat, and can even cause your boat to capsize.

Here Are Some Tips And Hints To Help You Avoid Capsizing And Swamping With Your Boat

  • Older boats can develop extra weight over the years due to more gear that’s stored and more water can accumulate in the hull. You need to take that into consideration in order to balance the weight.
  • Adding a little extra weight on boats with cockpit drains can make water enter the drain. Adding one extra person or a second cooler can cause this effect and hence care needs to be taken.
  • Overloading on calm water can also lead to capsizing or swamping. In some states, you can be fined for it.
  • Seating positions play a great role especially in rough water, standing up is a big NO. Two adults onboarding with five children for a boat with a capacity of four is risky. Children can hardly sit in one position making the boat unstable.
  • Controlling the weight distribution is important as preventing weight overload. You have to monitor weight distribution especially when you’re carrying both passengers and luggage, and make sure they’re all balanced.
  • Take note that installing new engines on older boats can increase the weight limit, adding a four-stroke engine on older boats will add up to 15% more weight than its manufacture weight limit which can cause water backflow in the cockpit.
  • Hunters and fishermen can make the boat unstable while they’re standing up, this is because the center of gravity increases.
  • The stability of the boat can be affected by water sloshing at the bottom of your boat making waves and wake to cause it to flip.
  • Small boats are more affected by bad weather, always postpone your trip when you notice bad weather. They’re more susceptible when overloaded or with uneven weight distribution.
  • Take note that weather can change quickly on the water, even with the slightest sign of weather change, you should go back to the dock. If you’re caught in a squall, gather all passengers in the center to stabilize the boat and you should also reduce the speed or even stay still until the weather ceases.
  • If you’re within NOAA broadcasts range, you can always use VHF radio or use smartphone apps to watch detailed weather maps so that you can see approaching storms.
  • Unexpected squalls can flip even bigger boats, you need to take note of that as well by checking the weather forecast.
  • Small boats can be affected by the modest wakes and waves especially if there is too much weight on the boat. Maintaining luggage and passengers is the best way to minimize the risk of capsizing and swamping on your boat.
  • All the fittings that penetrate the hull should be made with stainless steel, Marelon, or Bronze, it should also be closeable.

These are some of the ways you can reduce the risk of capsizing and swamping when you’re boating. The important factor as you can see is weight, most of the reported cases are attributed to carrying excessive weight beyond the boat’s capacity and how this weight is distributed. Just make sure not to exceed the limit before going out.

What should you do if you Capsize, Swamp, or Fall Overboard?

What should you do if you Capsize, Swamp, or Fall Overboard?

In case you capsize, swamp, or fall from your boat, you should try to stay as close to the boat as possible. If you are a passenger, signal or whistle to let others know that you have fallen overboard and wait for their help.

If you are operating the boat and attached the engine shut-off line to your personal flotation device, then your boat will stop moving until the time you get rescued.

As long as you plan to be on a boat, either as the operator or a passenger, make sure that you put on your life vest before you board the boat. This can save your life in the case of an accident.

How to Rescue a Passenger who has Falls Overboard?

If someone has fallen overboard, then you can rescue them using the following techniques:

  • Reach for Them

If the person who has fallen overboard is close to the boat, then you can reach out to them and pull them to safety.

The first thing to do would be to kill the engines so that you do not go too far from the victim. If you cannot reach them, you can use an oar or a rope to pull them to safety.

  • Throw a PFD

If the victim is far out of your reach, then you can throw a personal flotation device such as a lifebuoy at them and pull them to safety.

If you do not have a lifebuoy, then you should use any PFD at your disposal. The only aspect that matters is that it should float, and the victim can reach for it.

  • Move Towards Them

If you have drifted too far from the place where the victim fell overboard, you can move the boat towards them and pull them to safety. This maneuver requires a lot of control to avoid any further accidents.

  • Be the Victim’s Lifeguard

If you or someone else on the boat is an expert swimmer, you can jump into the water and rescue the victim. You should only use this technique if you feel the victim is drowning, and need help as soon as it is feasible.

Before you become the victim’s lifeguard, make sure that you have a life jacket on, and are carrying a flotation device for the victim as well.

Read Also: What is the Major Danger of Anchoring a Fishing Boat from the Stern?

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