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Tips to survive when a boat capsizes

As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, New Yorkers begin returning to the sea aboard sailboats and speedboats. With the increased activity on the waterways comes an uptick in recreational boating injuries and fatalities.

The United States Coast Guard reminds boaters that capsizing is a primary cause of these deaths and injuries and frequently can be attributed to inclement weather. Other factors include being inexperienced on the water and overloading the boat with heavy gear and too many passengers.

Below are some ways to ameliorate the risk of capsizing.

— Make sure that all passengers and gears are evenly distributed to ensure the boat remains upright and stable.

— Never overload a boat with more weight or passengers than it was built to handle.

— Don’t anchor from the stern.

— Watch out for the waves and the wakes from other boats.

— When turning the boat, do so at a controlled speed.

— If encountering larger-than-normal waves, reduce speed and hit them on an angle or even head on. Never attempt to go through large waves.

Anglers and boaters must always remain alert to shifting weather conditions and have plenty of life jackets and other safety equipment aboard. Keep a “ditch bag” packed with signaling devices and extra life jackets. If the boat capsizes, account for all passengers and remain with the boat at all costs. Some may right themselves but even if they don’t, they usually remain afloat long enough to provide protection for boaters until help arrives. All boaters should leave a float plan with a friend on shore or even the harbormaster.

Small boats like Sunfishes can be uprighted by standing up on the centerboard. Even if that fails, remaining with the boat may make the difference between rescue and recovery.

Those who have been injured in boating accidents may be able to seek compensation from the operator or others on the water who may be liable for their injuries.

Source:, “The Only Priority If You Capsize: Survive,” accessed May. 15, 2015

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