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Causes, Prevention and What to do When one Falls Overboard

Causes, Prevention and What to do When one Falls Overboard

By: The Ocean Sailing Guide

Pic By: Manitou

Typically, falling overboard is not an issue when it comes to pontoon boats. Pontoons boats are not made for oceans and large waves, so the chances are that you will not find yourself in a serious situation.

Nevertheless, I think it’s worth discussing what to do in case you encounter an emergency like this while on another type of boat.

Why People Fall Overboard

Here are some of the reasons why people fall overboard:

Excess Alcohol/Drug Consumption and Intoxication

According to, Jim Walker, a maritime attorney general, holds that 40 percent of the overboard fallings are caused by alcohol consumption, while the others could fit into the 60 percent.

In addition to this, the cruise lines claim to carry out precautionary measures to handle the situation of overboard fallings. Structural barriers, uniform minimum railings which are like four feet high, with other measures to prevent a fall. But when the alcohol is brought into contemplation, we know that the impossible becomes possible.


Suicide is another threatening cause for overboard falling. People fall overboard to end their pain and suffering.

According to several witnesses in cases of an overboard falling, it is believed that some deliberately go overboard or, in simpler terms, plunge into the water.

However, in most cases, suicide isn’t conclusive because there are no witnesses.

Reckless Behavior and Accidental Falling

People tend to carry out activities that could put them at risk, sometimes to put up a show, or to feed their social media viewers. I

Most actions that can be termed as reckless are; climbing the railings of a moving ship, exploring one's acting skills in risky places, taking pictures in a precarious position close to the ship’s railing. An involvement in horseplay tends to explain a reckless act on a moving boat directly.

How to Avoid Falling Overboard

Here are the necessary steps to take to avoid falling overboard:

Drink Responsibly and Avoid Drugs

Avoid consuming excess alcohol and, by all means, avoid the intake of any illegal drug. The consumption of these substances will only leave you staggering on the ship, acting recklessly, and finally falling off a boat.

Don’t Walk Around the Ship in Bad Weather

In bad weather, one could be at risk with constant blowing, shaking, falling, and tumbling. Stay safely inside your deck when you start noticing a change in weather.

Wear the Proper Footwear

The ship floors could be slippery sometimes. Ensure that your footwear is adaptable to a dry and wet floor. If you need help picking the right shoes, click here and see our suggestions.

Avoid Horseplay in Risky Area

Playing roughly on the railings, the pier, or other parts of the ship could be dangerous. Ensure that you are cautious and responsible even while trying to have the maximum fun on the ship.

What to Do If a Passenger Falls Overboard

If you see someone falling overboard, you should do the following:

Reduce Speed and use PFD

The most critical part of saving someone from the water is to toss them a life jacket or life ring. Especially if the waves are high.

This is important because it does two things:

  • The victim can rely on life ling rather than their swimming skills
  • Life ring is bright yellow and easy to spot in the water; it helps you to keep the victim in sight.

Turn Around the Boat

The next thing is to turn around and get the victim.

But you have to be careful when doing that because going back too quickly might prevent you from stopping in time and running over that person, creating an even worse situation.

When going back, reduce your speed and pull alongside the victim by approaching from downwind or into the current. Ideally, you want to pick whichever is stronger between those two.

Stop the Engine

Turn your engine off when you are close to the victim. You have to do that for the following reasons:

  • You could overshoot the victim and will have to repeat the same steps all over again.
  • You cut come too close to the victim and cut him/her with the propeller. That would be very, very bad. Avoid at all costs!!

Use Reaching Pole or Assist

It’s best if you could not come to the victim. Instead, come relatively close and use a reaching pole or a rope. Let the victim grab onto in and slowly pull them over to the boat.

Again, you are trying to bring the victim onboard safely without hitting them with your boat.

Pull The on Board

The last step should is to pull the victim out of the water. But that can be tricky, depending on the size of your boat.

If you have a large boat bringing someone on board should not be an issue, lead them to the ladders or pull them over the stern.

If, however, you are in a small boat, like dingy, this can get tricky. You have to keep the balance of the ship to prevent it from flipping over. You should move to the opposite side of the boat and let the victim clime in by itself.

Another option is to have the victim climb in from the stern. This way, you could assist the victim as well; the boat will not flip over this way.


The key to saving someone’s life after they have fallen overboard is to understand the causes, how to avoid it from happening, and what to do if it happens.

Prevention is always the best option, but if you can not avoid it, it’s best to prepare yourself as best as possible.

Know what you need to do. Practice with a friend or family member if you have to. Do everything you can to be 100% confident and ready for the moment when the disaster strikes; it can literally be the difference between life and death.

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