How to Handle an Emergency on Your Boat

The first thing you want to do to make sure an emergency on your boat ends well is to make certain you are always prepared before you even get out on the water. Try to imagine anything that might happen and have a solid solution in place for it.

Start by making certain that all required safety gear, including life jackets for each person, a fire extinguisher and a sounding device such as a whistle, is on board and easy to access. Ensure that all of those items are up to date and in working order (as well as all things mechanical and structural on your boat). 

It’s also great to add a VHF radio to the mix of safety gear you have on board your boat. It’s even better if everyone on your boat knows how to use it…just in case. Remember that saying “pan” three times indicates a distress situation that is not life threatening, saying “mayday” three times indicates a life-threatening situation and that red button on the VHF radio is an automatic distress call.

If an actual emergency on your boat does arise, try to stay calm, place life jackets on anyone who is not wearing them and make sure everyone is safe. 

If you have a fire on board, place your boat downwind. If that fire is in the engine space, cut off the fuel source. Then, aim your fire extinguisher at the base of the flames with a back and forth sweeping motion.

If your boat starts to take on water, try to locate the leak, bail incoming water and signal for help. An emergency fix-it kit, with epoxy sticks for a quick fix, is a blessing in this instance. Toss some spare fuses, along with an adjustable wrench, pliers, a knife and duct tape in your emergency tool kit just in case too. 

You may also want to add a pair of pantyhose to your hand-dandy emergency tool kit. You heard right! Pantyhose can double as an emergency fuel filter, a temporary replacement belt and can be used as a rope.

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