We are all familiar with the old flip flop soft shoe routine across a slippery, wet boat deck. Fishing boat decks can get greasy from bait and, if we are lucky, fish slime. Even recreational boats that are not used for fishing can quickly get wet and slippery. It’s easy to lose your footing in these conditions. It’s also easy to lose your balance on a boat when the hull is hit with a big wave or wake, and falling overboard happens more than you might think.
Falling overboard can be problematic to say the least, but particularly if you are alone. If you ARE alone, always use a kill switch – the ignition auto off switch that will shut off the motor and prevent the boat from circling back to run you over. Make sure you attach the kill switch lanyard securely to your body. Try to grab ahold of the boat immediately. If your boat begins to drift, you may not get another chance. If you have no ladder, you can use the outboard motor to help hoist yourself back in the boat. A GPS with a man overboard key that can pinpoint your location is also a good item to have. It’s hard to swim in clothes and shoes that have become waterlogged. If you do have to swim, ditch whatever weighs you down.
If you are not alone and a passenger falls off your boat, shout man overboard, shut down the engine and keep your eyes on the victim. Approach from upwind, keeping your motor safely away from the person. Toss a floatation device that is attached to a lifeline to pull him back toward the boat.