Boating 101: What to Do in a “Man Overboard” Incident


Understanding the factors involved in “man overboard” incidents is a good first step in preventing them. Below are a few potential scenarios.

  • Turbulent waters: always check the weather and try to avoid variable waters.
  • High speed: slow down and make sure passengers stay seated.
  • Balance issues: keep an eye on children and elderly passengers who may be more unsteady on their feet.
  • Intoxication: avoid alcohol misuse, which can cause unsteadiness on deck.
  • Obstructions: maintain a tidy deck and distribute weight evenly.
  • Slippery deck: clean the boat deck regularly to remove slime, and keep it as dry as possible.

In the event someone does fall overboard, respond quickly.

  1. Stop the engine to avoid a propeller strike and maintain close proximity to the person in the water. Press the man overboard button (MOB) on your GPS if applicable.
  2. Throw a PFD into the water to assist the victim in staying afloat and to serve as a marker.
  3. Ask other passengers to keep an eye on the victim as the boat maneuvers back to them.

> How to Prevent People From Falling Overboard

> Where is the Best Place on a Boat to Bring a Person Who Has Fallen Overboard

> What to Do if You Fall Overboard