What Should You Do If Your Boat Capsizes?


Last updated on June 16, 2023

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Welcome to our comprehensive guide on what to do if your boat capsizes. In this expert article, we will provide you with invaluable information and actionable steps to ensure your safety and navigate through this challenging situation. Whether you are an experienced boater or a beginner, knowing how to respond when your boat capsizes can be a lifesaving skill. We will cover essential techniques, safety measures, and tips to help you handle a capsized boat effectively.

Understanding Boat Capsizing

Boat capsizing occurs when a vessel overturns, resulting in it being upside down or on its side. This can happen due to various factors such as rough waters, operator error, equipment failure, or sudden weather changes. It is crucial to remain calm and focused during such an event to enhance your chances of survival.

Ensuring Personal Safety

1. Stay Calm: The first and most important step is to stay calm. Panic can hinder clear thinking and rational decision-making. Take a deep breath and assess the situation.

2. Assess the Risk: Determine the level of danger you are facing. Factors like water temperature, weather conditions, and proximity to land will influence your choices.

3. Wear a Personal Flotation Device (PFD): If you're not already wearing a PFD, put it on immediately. It will help keep you afloat and increase your chances of survival.

4. Locate Others: Check if everyone on board is accounted for. Ensure that they are also wearing their PFDs.

Righting the Capsized Boat

The next step is to right the capsized boat to ensure stability and facilitate re-entry. The method you use will depend on the type of boat and your physical strength. Here are two common techniques:

1. The "Turtle" Method

The "Turtle" method is suitable for smaller boats that are lightweight and easy to maneuver. Follow these steps:

  1. Swim to the overturned hull of the boat.
  2. Position yourself at the stern or the transom.
  3. Apply downward pressure while kicking your legs to flip the boat upright.
  4. Once the boat is right-side up, climb on top of it and regain control.

2. The "Climb Aboard" Method

The "Climb Aboard" method is typically used for larger boats or vessels with stability features. Here's how to perform this technique:

  1. Swim to the highest point of the capsized boat, usually the centerboard or the keel.
  2. Grab hold of the boat and start pushing your body weight against it.
  3. Use your legs to kick and create momentum to roll the boat back to its normal position.
  4. Once the boat is righted, climb on board and regain control.

Re-Entry and Recovery

After successfully righting the boat, it's time to focus on re-entry and recovery. Follow these steps to get back on board:

  1. Orient Yourself: Assess your surroundings, check the boat's stability, and ensure that it is safe to re-enter. 
  2. Use the "Hauling In" Technique: If you have a partner or other individuals nearby, they can help you get back on board. One person can hold the boat steady while the other climbs aboard using the "hauling in" technique. 
  3. Solo Re-Entry Technique: If you're alone, use the following method: 
  • Swim to the stern of the boat and position yourself near the transom.
  • Place one hand on the stern to stabilize yourself and use your other hand to lift your body partially out of the water.
  • Kick your legs vigorously to generate upward momentum and slide your torso onto the boat.
  • Once your upper body is on the boat, roll over and bring your legs aboard.

Safety Precautions and Preventative Measures

To minimize the risk of capsizing and ensure your overall boating safety, consider the following precautions:

  1. Check Weather Conditions: Stay informed about current and forecasted weather conditions. Avoid boating in rough waters or during storms. 
  2. Maintain a Proper Center of Gravity: Distribute weight evenly across the boat to maintain stability. Avoid sudden movements that could tip the boat. 
  3. Equip Yourself with Knowledge: Attend boating safety courses, learn about navigation techniques, and familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of boating in your area. 
  4. Regularly Inspect and Maintain Your Boat: Ensure your boat is in good working condition, including the hull, engine, and safety equipment.


Navigating through a boat capsizing situation requires knowledge, preparedness, and the ability to remain calm under pressure. By following the techniques outlined in this article, you can increase your chances of safely recovering from a capsized boat incident. Remember to prioritize personal safety, understand the appropriate methods to right a capsized boat, and practice re-entry techniques. Additionally, taking preventative measures and maintaining a safety-first mindset will contribute to a positive boating experience. Stay safe and enjoy your time on the water!

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