What To Do If Your Boat Is Sinking

Whether you’ve read various articles, watched the documentaries or may know of someone who has experienced a sinking boat, you’ll know how important it is to be prepared for a worst case scenario. We’ve all thought this would never happen to us, but one day the unthinkable could happen and you may find yourself onboard whilst your boat is sinking.

Question is, what practical steps and failsafe advice should you follow if the worst happens? Read on for our practical advice on what to do if your boat is sinking.

Check your crew


Easier said than done, but it’s important to keep calm and not panic. Attempt to keep everyone on board calm and reassured before taking action. Ensure that every single member on board is wearing a well-fitted life jacket in case the worst happens before help arrives.

It's time to mayday

Now that you have accounted for everyone and their safety equipment, your next port of call should be making the mayday call. Contact the coastguard as quickly as possible.

There are several ways to do this, you can call 999 on your phone and ask for the Coastguard or use the Global Maritime Distress Safety Systems to make an urgent call for assistance. Share as accurate a location as possible and ensure they are aware of the condition of your boat and how many people are aboard. If you haven’t received a response within 10-15 seconds, repeat your call until you do.

rnli rescueSource

Find the root cause

Once you have made the call for help and have received a response, it’s time to figure out what’s causing the boat to sink. Attempt to source where the leak is coming from and see if there’s any way you can stop or slow it without compromising safety any further. Use whatever you can to restrict the flow, think outside the box and use boat interiors like soft furnishings or clothing.

Head back towards land if possible

Depending on the situation and condition of your vessel, you could attempt to make it back to shore safely. Regardless of where you’ve come from or where you were aiming to go, the most important thing in this scenario is getting everyone on board safely back on land so seek out the nearest safe place to dock if feasible.

Assess the risks around abandoning your vessel

The general consensus is that if at all possible and safe, it is recommended to stay aboard your sinking vessel as you’re more likely to be found by the coastguard before the worst happens. Remember, most boats will still float, even when capsized for a time. Weigh up the pros and cons, assess the overall situation and make a call with everyone’s safety in mind.

Always expect the unexpected

Preparation for a worst case scenario will always be your best line of defence. Ensure that you are stockpiled with an emergency dry bag containing essentials like: a mobile phone with a full charge, a solar powered battery pack, a handheld radio, flares, a first aid kit, dry food supplies, drinking water, a knife and a torch, among other key items.

family on sinking boatSource

For further information about the coastguard and what to do in the event of a sinking boat, discover more about the Maritime and Coastguard Agency here.

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