Stranded on a Boat

stranded on boatWhether you’re just a few miles off the coast or smack dab in the middle of the deep blue, it’s important to know what to do as a stranded sportsman or leisurely boater. Day or night, on an ocean or lake, in cold temperatures or hot, there are measures you can take to ensure your comfort, and even survival, if stranded at sea. We believe boating safety is important for everyone to understand. Whether you’re an avid boater or only occasionally find yourself on the water, read these tips to ensure that you and your boat will be prepared in the event of disaster.

The first step in preparing for a possible boating disaster is to make sure your boat is running properly and that you have necessary safety precautions onboard.

Inspecting your boat

Whether you are mechanically inclined or decide to take your boat to a mechanic, make sure to do the following:

Test that everything battery-operated is working correctly
– Make a note of battery types and keep their replacements onboard with you at all times
Tighten every bolt and screw visible to you
Make sure your navigational system is working and that you, or someone else onboard, knows how to use it
Check to see that your radio is working


Be aware of your gas tank
– Fill up before you launch
– Bring a full gas can with you
– Make sure your gas gauge is working correctly or that you know how much gas is in your tank


Check the engine for irregularities, broken parts and leaks

Things to have onboard

After boat inspection, make sure your vessel is equipped with the following:

Flotation device(s)
– Such as life jackets, life rings and rafts
– There should be as many life jackets on your boat as there are people onboard.


First aid kit
Plenty of food and water
– Always plan for the worst. It is better to bring too much of something than not enough in this scenario.


Extra clothing
– Being stranded for hours or days may involve extreme fluctuations in temperature
– Dress according to the weather
– Bring clothing to keep warm


Sunscreen and shade
– Make sure to lather on and bring plenty of high-SPF sunscreen
– Also bring hats, visors and sunglasses to protect passengers from extreme heat and sun exposure


Emergency signals
– EPIRB (emergency positioning indicating radio beacon)
– Dye packs or water markers
– Flares
– Reflective devices such as mirrors or watches
– Horns or other alarms

Boating outings usually end well, but in the case of disaster, here’s what to do with a safe and properly equipped boat in the event that you become stranded or your vessel sinks.

What to do if stranded at sea

Don’t panic
– Consider why your boat stopped running
– Does it need gas?
– Is there something stuck in the engine?


Drop your anchor
– If you are unsure of the problem, it’s important to stay in the same spot until help arrives
– It is recommended to stay in the area of the accident for at least 72 hours until help arrives, especially in cases of capsizing


Take notice of your surroundings
– Is there anything nearby that could damage your boat?
– How deep is the water around you?
– Pay attention to rocks or landforms to use to determine your position


Radio for help
– If your radio is working, reach out to someone for assistance
Keep track of how long you have been in your boat


Make plans before food and water runs out
– Give each passenger specific tasks


Ration your supplies
– Do not consume all food and water right away
– It’s better to have supplies left over than to not have enough


Stay out of the elements
– Utilize your extra clothing to make passengers comfortable
– Keep hydrated
– Use sunscreen, hats and sunglasses to protect yourself from UV radiation


Keep an eye out for other boats


Try starting your engine again
– Sometimes the engine may just need some rest


Use emergency signals
– If all else has failed, and help has not come for days, use your emergency signals
– If you have no emergency signals, use a smoke signal as a last resort by burning a life vest or raft


Look for shore
– Only leave your boat if rescue seems unlikely
– Look for a stationary cumulus (white, fluffy) cloud as an indication of land
– Watch for birds, which head toward land in the afternoon and evening
– Keep an eye out for floating lumber and vegetation

If your boat sinks

Keep in mind the following, if your boat is sinking and you and other passengers end up stranded in rafts or floating in the water:

Ration water immediately
– Without water, it is possible to die within 72 hours


Salvage any flotation devices
– Tie someone to the raft, if you have one, to keep it close in case it capsizes in high winds


Move away from the sinking vessel
– Sinking vessels create suction that could pull you under the water
– If there is burning oil in the water, swim underneath it, pushing water away from you when you come up for air


Keep your head above water
– Most of your body’s heat is lost through the head


Keep your clothes on
– You will stay warmer with clothes than without
– In water temperatures of 40 50 degrees Fahrenheit, you can develop hypothermia within an hour
– In these conditions, you can only expect to swim close to a mile before passing out or drowning


Remain still and unpanicked
– Trying to swim or becoming frantic will cause exhaustion


Draw attention to yourself
– Tie pieces of brightly-colored clothing to your limbs and head
– Burn a life jacket or floating remnant of the boat as a last resort


Stay in the area of the accident
– This will ensure that other boats or rescuers will find you more easily


Keep an eye out for boats


Look for land
– Follow the same instructions as listed in what to do if stranded at sea
– Swim away from the scene of the accident only if you know where land is


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