What to Do When Your Boat Sinks
The phrase “abandon ship” was used a lot more commonly in the old days when modern engineering was too far out of reach. Now, certain safety measures have been put in place that’ll protect most boats from capsizing, but that doesn’t mean that every boat is safe from sinking. When it comes time to abandon your boat, you’ll need to be prepared.
Know How to Avoid Sinking
Things will be a lot easier and safer for you if you know how to avoid sinking your boat in the first place. This is a lot easier said than done, but with the right knowledge, you can successfully avoid a major disaster.
The first step is to take proper safety precautions ahead of time. Loading up enough fuel, checking the weather, installing proper communication equipment, maintaining your boat, and having enough people to operate the vessel are key.
Ideally, you’ll keep the boat from sinking simply by identifying the problem and fixing it. It may be a leak, a burst hose, or another issue that’s causing water to infiltrate the boat. If you can find the leak and fix it, you might avoid abandoning the ship entirely.
There may also be the option of using crash pumps, which are available to inboard and stern drive owners. By disconnecting the engine’s raw-water intake hose and using the engine as a crash pump, the ship may avoid sinking. Do some research on your own boat to determine if there’s any way to save the boat in any foreseeable scenario.
Be Prepared with Survival Supplies
Inclement weather or other unforeseen circumstances might make saving the boat impossible. If that happens, you’ll want to be prepared with survival supplies that may save your life. Before hitting the water, you’ll want several survival items on board.
First aid items are also a must, including bandages, medication, sunscreen, antibacterial creams, and other items that can be useful in a crisis. It should be equipped with a book to show you how to perform basic procedures.
Non-perishable food and emergency water packets will also be useful, as will an emergency radio with extra batteries to call for help. Blankets and warm, but lightweight, clothes in a waterproof bag can keep your body temperature from dropping in a storm.
Pack each of these items into an easy-to-carry case, or store them inside of your lifeboat. That way, when it’s time to abandon ship, you can easily carry the parcel overboard. With these survival supplies on hand, you’ll be prepared to handle the worst scenarios.
Make a Distress Call
At the first sign of trouble, use your emergency VHF radio to make a distress call to the Coast Guard, who stay on frequency 16. You’ll state your location, the name of your boat, the number of people on board, if there are any injuries, and how long you think you’ll be able to stay afloat. If you know the exact cause of your boat sinking, that may be helpful as well.
Don’t wait until it’s time to abandon ship to make the call. As soon as something goes wrong, get to your radio. You might not be able to radio for help once conditions get really bad, so the sooner the better.
An emergency beacon device is a must have. This will notify authorities if you are in distress any where in the world as well as “home in” on your exact location when activated or as soon as it hits the water.
Save the Boat Before Abandoning Ship
If at all possible, try to save the boat before you jump overboard. This is an expensive investment that you wouldn’t want to lose. Never put your own life ahead of the ship’s well-being, but if there’s a way to stop a leak or to preserve the ship before you abandon it, take that opportunity because you may not have another chance.