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“WHAT IS MOST LIKELY TO CAUSE SOMEBODY TO FALL OVER BOARD” states that it is a severe fear for anyone out at sea. Whether on a small boat or an enormous container, the risks are real, and the moments can be distressing. Considering the issues that contribute to the incident happening is crucial for preventing them from happening in the first place. In this article, we resolve the dangers at sea, the human factor in falling overboard, equipment and safety measures, navigational challenges, and the role of sea creatures in overboard accidents.

The Most Common Reasons for Falling from Overboard

Land creatures don’t frequently survive in long open water without extra help. Thus, boating, shipping, and watersports are a massive part of our society. When we do it safely, the risks of sinking can still be low, and we avoid going overboard. A boat is a significant first step toward safety; however, a few big slip-ups can quickly increase your likelihood.

Falling Overboard Can Be Dangerous

Falling overboard from a boat is not only a harrowing experience but a potentially life-threatening one. The open waters can quickly become an unforgiving environment. One of the primary hazards if you fall overboard is drowning. Once a person is in the water, the instinct to stay afloat becomes crucial. However, strong currents, rough conditions, and exhaustion can make keeping your head above water challenging.

Apart from the immediate risk of drowning, falling overboard can lead to physical injuries like broken bones, head trauma, or internal injuries. Additionally, a person who fell overboard may develop hypothermia due to lengthy exposure to cold water. It is vital to proactively address the dangers associated with falling overboard and prioritize measures to prevent incidents from happening initially.

What Is the Most Likely Cause of Falling Overboard?

The most common causes of accidents, including falls overboard, are from the boat operator’s inattention. This means that the boat operator has taken their attention away from driving for whatever reason, and it has caused an incident that could cause someone to fall overboard. Second and third from inattention are operator inexperience and excessive speed. Much of your safety on a boat is in the captain’s hands, and someone dangerous is likely to cause a fall overboard or other accidents.

The next most common cause of falls is alcohol use. This is on the part of both the operator and the passengers. Drugs and alcohol can be hazardous combinations on a boat as they both significantly increase the likelihood of a fall overboard and also the chance of drowning.

Alcohol and boating can be a way for disaster.

If we turn the statistics around a bit and take a look at what is the most fatal cause of accidents, alcohol use becomes the top contributing factor of deaths on the water. Having spent much of my life recreating on boats, the only death I witnessed on the water was due to heavy alcohol consumption. Not only was the individual who fell intoxicated, but the group he was with was intoxicated as well and slow to react. Remember this when on the water: never mix alcohol with boat operations.

Other Reasons Why Someone May Fall Overboard

One of the most typical causes of what is most likely to cause somebody to fall overboard ,someone going overboard from a boat is a lack of stability or balance. Unstable footing, sudden shifts in weight distribution, or unexpected vessel movements can easily catch boaters off guard and lead to an unfortunate fall overboard. This can happen due to several issues, such as rough sea conditions, sudden turns, abrupt stops, or even unexpected collisions with objects in the water.

Bad Weather

Unpredictable and severe weather conditions, like high winds, heavy rain, and rough waves, can significantly increase the risk of falling overboard. Strong gusts can throw you off balance, while turbulent waters can make it challenging to maintain footing on deck. It is critical to closely monitor climate forecasts and exercise caution when navigating adverse conditions.

Slippery Decks

Moisture from rain, splashing waves, or spills can create hazardous surfaces that may cause someone to fall overboard. Insufficient non-slip surfaces, inadequate drainage, or failure to promptly address wet conditions further contribute to the risk. Wear proper footwear with good traction while on deck, and quickly mop up wet surfaces to prevent slipping and falling overboard.

Sharp Turns

Sharp turns, particularly at high speeds, can unexpectedly shift the balance and momentum of the boat. It can cause you to lose your balance and fall overboard. Quick changes in direction without warning or preparation can catch you off guard. Practice smooth and controlled boat maneuvers and stay seated if you are not behind the wheel.

How to Reduce the Risk of Going Overboard

Reducing the risk of falling overboard ensures you stay safe in open waters. While a lifejacket won’t stop you from falling overboard, if you find yourself in the water, it will reduce the risk and increase your safety. Make sure your life covering fits appropriately to help you stay afloat if you fall overboard.

Staying placed while the boat is in motion significantly reduces the risk of falling. Standing or moving around the vessel can increase instability and the likelihood of losing balance, particularly in sudden, sharp turns. If you must stand up, hold on to the handrails to minimize the risk of falling overboard.

What You Should Do If You Fall Overboard

If you fall off the boat, it is crucial to act swiftly and calmly. Panicking will impair your decision-making abilities. Signal for help by shouting, waving your arms, and using a whistle if you have one on your life jacket. Alerting others on the boat or nearby vessels can help with prompt rescue.

You will want to stay afloat without wearing a life jacket. Lay the plane on your back and spread your arms and legs to conserve energy. If you are not able to float, try treading water. However, limit movement to ensure you don’t tire before rescue gets to you.

Ideally, someone onboard will throw you a flotation device to pull you back to the boat. If someone jumps into the water and approaches you to help, be careful not to push them underwater when reaching for them. Staying calm and listening to your rescuer will keep you both safe.

Stay safe by having a life ring on board if someone goes overboard.

How to Help Someone Who Fell Overboard

Slow The Boat

As soon as you become aware that someone has fallen overboard, the first step is to slow down or stop the boat. This helps to minimize the distance between the person in the water and the boat, making rescue efforts easier.

Throw a Life ring Or Any Flotation

Throwing a life ring or any other available flotation device toward the person in the water can provide them with immediate buoyancy and support. Ensure that you correctly aim the device within their reach. This increases their chances of staying afloat while awaiting rescue.

On a giant ship that might not be able to turn quickly, providing flotation could be the difference between life and death. Throw anything that floats overboard if you don’t have a life ring.

Alert Crew and Surrounding Boats

If you are not the boat operator, do everything possible to alert the boat crew quickly. If other boats are nearby, promptly alert them that someone has fallen overboard. Use visual signs, like waving your arms or a distress flag, and sound signaling devices, like horns or whistles. Notifying nearby vessels increases the chances of additional assistance.

The quicker you can start a recovery, the better the chance of minimal injury.

Don’t Lose Sight of the Person

Maintain visual contact with the person who fell overboard at all times. This helps track their movements and ensures they remain within sight until rescue completion. Losing sight of the person in the water can complicate the rescue operation.

Track GPS Location

If your boat has GPS technology, please note and record where the person fell. This information is essential for communicating precise coordinates to search and rescue the system.


As you embark on your nautical adventures, it is essential to prioritize safety and prepare for unforeseen circumstances, like falling overboard. By following preventive measures like wearing a life jacket, staying seated, and limiting alcohol consumption, you can significantly reduce the risk of accidents. If someone falls overboard, remember to remain calm, signal for help, and take immediate action to assist them.

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