Georgia Boater Education Course


CHAPTER 4: Emergency Preparedness


Did you know that the major cause of fatalities in small boats is from drowning after a fall overboard or a capsizing? And according to the U.S. Coast Guard, eighty-five percent of people who drown while boating are not wearing a lifejacket.

So the number one way you can be prepared for these potentially deadly emergencies is to always wear your lifejacket.

What else can you do to be prepared?

Let’s start by learning more about these emergencies and their causes.

A capsizing is when a boat overturns or is swamped with water. Capsizing is most common in small boats like canoes and sailboats. One of the good things is that these small boats usually stay afloat, giving the boaters who are now in the water something to hold onto for support.

A fall overboard is when someone unexpectedly tumbles over the side of a boat into the water. Because these falls often catch boaters by surprise, there is usually no chance to put on a lifejacket if it’s not already being worn.

Common causes of falls overboard and capsizing include: being caught off guard by a wave or sharp turn when moving around in the boat, carrying too much weight in the boat or unevenly distributing weight in the boat; and bad weather conditions.


Knowing this, there are a few things we can do to prevent these emergencies.

  • First, stay low and centered in your boat, and always maintain three points of contact when moving about your boat.
  • Second, take corners at a safe speed and angle.
  • Third, watch for other boats’ wake and take that wake head-on from the bow.

  • Next, never overload your boat and make sure that the load is distributed evenly.
  • And lastly, avoid boating in bad weather.

If you must boat in bad weather, make sure to slow down. A final tip is to never tie the rode line of the anchor to the stern of your boat. This places more weight at the back of the boat, increasing chances of swamping.