Fall Overboard: Reasons and What You Should Do? Rescue Guide

by | Last updated Jan 31, 2022

People love to go on a boat ride. However, there is a possibility of accidents as well during the journey. One of the unfortunate and frequently occurring accident is someone falling overboard. Do you want to know the reasons behind this?

If the answer is yes to the above question, you are at the right place. In the following guide, we will discuss all the reasons, potential risks, what a person should do, how to rescue an overboard passenger, and much more.

One of the significant reasons behind someone falling overboard is standing near the railing when the boat moves, such as on small boats like motorboats or sailboats. It happens more likely when the ship is swaying a lot and an individual is not aware of the situation.

Contrarily, on a large boat such as a cruise, the reason for falling overboard is different. In such cases, being drunk or under the influence of a drug is one of the major causes. It is easy to avoid such a situation by being in your senses. It is better to avoid standing near the moving boat’s edge in such situations.

Do you know the reasons behind a person falling overboard? learn everything, such as reasons and what a person should do to reduce the potential risks.

What is Most Likely to Cause Someone to Fall Overboard?

There is a common solution that will prevent someone from falling overboard. The practice is to hold the boat with one of your hands while moving or standing. When not attentive or cautious while on the board, there is a huge possibility that you might fall overboard.

It is important to note that there are railings present at different places on the boat to hold. Toe rails keep people safe. In case a person wants to be safe while overboard, it is best not to visit the deck when strong wind is blowing or when a boat is going through extreme weather conditions.

Moving on, if you need to visit the deck, the best thing to do is to hook yourself with a harness. After that, you should keep one of your hands on the boat for safety. Remember that the decks on the boats are unsafe. You have to be very careful, especially when traveling in a moving sailboat. To get rid of any unfavorable situation, you should stay alert, stay calm, sober, and steady. Most of the time, people who fall overboard are not holding correctly and choose to ignore the surroundings.

What Are the Potential Risks of Falling Overboard?

Do you know what is an awful situation when you are traveling in the sea? Yes, you are right! Falling overboard is on the top of the list. It can happen to any person who is traveling on a boat and not taking proper precautions. One must know that there are many risks out there, and the possibility of rescue depends on the scenario. Now, let’s have a look at some of the potential risks of falling overboard:

Cold Water

When a person accidentally falls in icy water, the person unintentionally lets the air present inside the body move out. After that, a person will struggle because the air supply gets a block, and a person will try to inhale more air. When doing so, a person is going to swallow the water accidentally.

One of the common causes of death is the shock of cold water due to accidental immersion in icy water. In such a situation, a person cannot move the limbs instantly and not swim correctly. It will be tough to raise head over the water surface, ultimately leading to the high chances of drowning.


The chance of a person surviving after falling inside the water depends on the water’s temperature. If a person falls in water that is not too cold, such as in Caribbean waters, it will not be a significant issue. On the other hand, when a person falls inside ice-cold water, this leads to problematic and disturbed brain functioning. Moreover, it can cause the death of a person within few minutes due to hypothermia.

Hypothermia is a state of the body in which the body will drop much heat instantly compared to absorbing heat. It will lead to a severe low temperature of a body that can be even lower than 95 degrees. Here are some symptoms you should know about hypothermia:

  • Lost control of bladder
  • Loss of hand motion
  • Rigid Joints
  • Slow Pulse
  • Swollen Face
  • Unclear Speech

The Plunge

As said before, large boats do have decks. A deck is a place that is high to a considerable amount from the sea surface. In this scenario, the fall will be higher as well. It can be approximately up to few dozen meters or more than that. The assessment of physical harm will be according to a way of falling inside the water. It is going to be the position of a person when they land on the surface.

Falling on water from a considerable height is similar to falling on a hard ground of rock. It is one of the reasons due to which divers jump from a small cliff into the water. They jump straight in a pencil-like manner to carefully break the surface of the water without any harm.

Keeping the above discussion in mind, if a person will fall in the wrong position in the water, there is a considerable possibility of broken bones or receiving other injuries.


A shark may be present in warm water and not in cold water. There is no need to be scared of sharks and other animals in the sea. The aquatic animals are not going to attack human beings violently. Typically, they will not attack without being provoked. However, you must know that they are good at detecting the targets and will strike a person only when they sense any blood. They are capable of sensing blood from great distances.

Strong Water Current

Another most likely cause of people falling overboard is that they are standing near the edge of a ship. They get drowned due to the strong water currents of the sea. If there is a big ship, then a person will not immerse beneath the boat or move toward the propellers. Instead, a person will be moving away through water present around the vessel. It will make the situation difficult for the people who are looking to track the fallen person.

How to Rescue an Overboard Person?

An overboard person might be safe according to the situation. If someone sees an overboard person, they should constantly keep an eye on the person after the overboard alert. Lock your eyes on the overboard person to know about the correct position of the man overboard.

You should know that the open seawater surface is not very calm. So, the person can be quickly out of your view because of irregular surfaces and intense waves. The situation will worsen because you will be looking at the pitch-black color of water if the person has not worn anything shining or glowing.

Once people can locate the person overboard, they should throw a life ring and any other object floating on water. It will help the person to hold a thing until the rescue team comes. Moreover, the life ring and other floating material will help you to identify the victim’s position.

As there will be an alert for man overboard, the boat will turn back to rescue the victim. It is known as a “rescue turn for man overboard.” It is an operation by a marine that takes place after the MOB confirmation. In big ships, such as aircraft carriers, they cannot take an instant U-turn. A small boat called MOB Boat with staff is sent to save the victim in such scenarios.

What Things Can an Overboard Person Do?

Are you wondering what an overboard person should do? Among the essential things to do is to stay calm, stay hopeful and relax. The person should try to float instead of swim. It is going to create a huge difference in a life-or-death scenario. Once a person starts to flow, they should be in senses and control their breathing. It will be better to minimize the movement to save some energy.

An individual should lay flat on their back and slightly raise their head over the water’s surface to conserve energy. You should also bend back and spread your arms to the side. After that, you should allow your legs to hand up in stretched manner. Other than this, consider doing a dead man’s float. How? Have a look below:

  1. Start with a deep breath and put your face inside the water.
  2. Turn your body into a relaxed position and allow it to hang.
  3. To take some air, slightly raise your head and take a deep breath. Next, do move limbs to keep yourself floating.
  4. Keep on inhaling and exhaling deeply and repeat the steps.

When someone falls overboard, they get rescued because they stay calm and properly follow the instruction of rescuers.

What Are the Top 5 “Don’ts” to Avoid Falling Overboard?

Have fun on your cruise. It would be best if you did the following to avoid the risk of falling overboard:

  1. Don’t follow “Jack and Rose” from Titanic while taking a selfie. If you are going to do this, you are putting yourself in danger.
  2. Don’t go out on the ship when it is passing through a bad weather condition. It is better to stay in the boat’s cabin. The slipper boat’s deck and the strong winds blowing are the reason to stay inside.
  3. Don’t go close to the edge of the boat after drinking alcohol. When a person drinks too much, it is better to stand far from the boat’s edges. If feeling dizzy, you must lay down before regaining your senses.
  4. Don’t try to wear heels even if you are going on a boat tour. Do wear proper boat shoes as they will protect you from falling.
  5. Don’t involve yourself in an argument close to the boat’s edge. It would be best to stay in the cabin of your boat. When in an emotional state of mind, don’t go close to the boat’s edge.


Now, you will have the answer to your question as to why people fall overboard? One of the leading causes is that people are careless. People should hold something when standing on a moving boat in a small boat like a speed boat or sailboat. It is one of the main reasons behind this accident.

Remember that the boat has to move. It will be moving through the water waves. If a person is moving on the ship without holding the boat with one hand, there is a considerable possibility of falling. In a cruise ship or large ship, the chances of falling overboard are minimal. But if this happens, the reason behind this is carelessness and drinking alcohol.

One of the best things a person should do to avoid the accident is to stand far from the deck’s railing and the ship’s edge. Follow this, especially when you drink alcohol, and follow all other tips above. Once you will follow the directions and be careful, you can easily enjoy your boat ride experience.

Recommended for You!