As our boating accident lawyers know all too well, there are a number of things that can go wrong when sailing in open waters. Even the most experienced sailors can encounter emergency situations, which can lead their vessels to capsize and eventually sink. But while it’s possible to encounter a number of unfavorable conditions at sea, including inclement weather, large waves, and other natural phenomenon, there are a few things you can do to lower your chances of having your boat sink.
According to a study by the Boat Owners Association of the United States (BoatUS), the majority of boat sinkings are preventable. Many of these kinds of boating accidents are the result of gradual wear and tear. However, with proper maintenance and care, boaters can drastically lower their chances of experiencing a tragedy at sea.
Below are three easy steps to take that can help prevent your boat from sinking:
- Inspect your boat frequently. When a boat has been in storage for a while or has not been used for some time, it may begin to corrode or develop mechanical problems. Even vessels that are used often can still experience malfunctions, which can lead to a capsizing accident and the subsequent sinking of the boat. To prevent a tragedy, before heading out into open waters, inspect your boat thoroughly, checking for any leaks and damage. If you find even the smallest of issues, don’t dismiss them. Instead, address the problems promptly and make sure any malfunctions are fixed and worn equipment replaced prior to setting sail once again.
- Keep a proper lookout. One of the main causes of boat sinkings is a collision. To prevent a boat crash, be sure to keep a proper lookout while sailing. Even the smallest of distractions can cause a vessel operator to collide with another boat or water craft, or with a stationary object. Part of staying alert involves being sober. Though many boaters enjoy having a cold beer or alcoholic beverage while sailing, alcohol can severely impair an operator’s judgment and ability to safely maneuver their vessel, so it’s best to abstain from any alcoholic drink while manning the helm.
- Maintain safe dock line management systems. Failing to keep your dock lines in good shape can have catastrophic consequences. Many boaters make the mistake of improperly storing their lines (aka ropes). When storing lines, be sure to coil them so as to avoid any entanglement. Keeping ropes organized can prevent snags, which could potentially cause a boat to sink. Another way to prevent snags is to make sure your boat is centered if you are storing it in a slip.
These are just a few safety tips that can help prevent a boat sinking accident. By taking the proper steps to maintain your vessel in safe shape and staying alert while manning the helm, you can largely reduce the chances of a capsizing accident. However, because emergencies can happen, it’s important to ensure that you and everyone aboard your vessel are always wearing a life jacket. If your boat does happen to capsize, a life jacket may be the only chance you might have at surviving the accident until emergency crews are able to reach you.