Likely To Cause Someone To Fall Overboard

What Is Most Likely To Cause Someone To Fall Overboard?

Wondering why someone might fall overboard? What should you do if someone does? What should you do if you do?

And, how can you prevent yourself or someone else from taking a tumble over the edge? 

You have come to the right place, we have answers to all of your questions, right here.

What Is Most Likely To Cause Someone To Fall Overboard?

The most likely reason that someone will fall overboard is from standing up on a boat.

If someone stands up on a boat, and it hits rocks, a wave, or a wake, or even if other people move around on deck, it can cause a ‘man overboard’ situation.

So, if you can prevent standing on a boat, this is the absolute best way to ensure that no one ends up overboard. 

Ways to prevent falling overboard

While you may assume that a ‘man overboard’ situation is likely during choppy conditions that is not always true.

Boat decks can be very slippery, people can get excited, or be inexperienced, and if there is alcohol involved then it is a whole other problem you face. 

Any one of these things, or all of them combined can cause someone to flip overboard if they aren’t being cautious.

For this reason it is best to stay seated at all times unless you absolutely cannot. 

The US coast guard has a few things to say on the matter themselves, and it is best to take heed of their wisdom on the matter. 

  • The driver of the boat should always have an ignition safety lanyard on them which can act as a kill switch in the event of an emergency. 
  • Passengers should sit on seats, not on areas such as the bow, seat backs, gunwale, or motor cover. These areas are not designed for sitting.
  • Never overload your boat with either passengers or gear. 
  • Ensure that passengers and gear are adequately balanced out on the boat to prevent uneven weight distribution and capsizing.
  • All passengers should have appropriate US Coast Guard approved life jackets, or a PFD while the boat is moving. 
  • Keep the center of gravity low, this includes preventing passengers from standing or moving about while the boat is moving. 
  • When turning slow down the boat to prevent people from tipping overboard.
  • Be wary of the weather forecast and avoid taking trips during rough waters or high winds. 

What should you do if you have fallen overboard?

If you yourself have fallen overboard then all you can do is try to keep calm, try to relax, and keep an optimistic mindset, it is also best to try to float instead of swim.

As you float you get your senses together and control your breathing, if you swim then you use up vital energy and are more likely to panic.

Floating will help you to conserve energy. 

To do this, lie down flat on your back and keep your head above the water.

Bend your back and spread your arms to the side, with your legs hanging up in a stretched position. 

You could also perform another float which is called ‘The dead man’s float’.

This is fairly easy to do, but it is best that you are an experienced swimmer to do this.

You should take a large breath and then place your face into the water, relax your body and let it hang.

Should you need air, lift your head to breathe in and move your limbs to keep you afloat.

Then inhale and exhale deeply, and repeat. 

Most of the time someone who has fallen overboard and has been rescued successfully it has been due to them staying calm and following the instructions of those rescuing them carefully. 

Rescuing an overboard passenger

On the other hand, an overboard passenger can be saved and can survive depending on the speed with which someone else recognizes that they have fallen overboard.

As soon as someone sees the passenger fall overboard they should raise a ‘Man Overboard’ alter in order to alert people, whilst keeping their own eyes stuck on the overboard passenger to trace them in the water. 

You need to keep close track of the exact position of the man overboard.

The waters of an open ocean are rarely calm, so the overboard passenger may quickly go out of sight due to intense water and the irregularity of the surface.

Situations like such are also much worse during the nighttime due to the water appearing pitch black, unless, of course, the overboard passenger is wearing something that will glow or shine. 

Once you have located the person who has fallen overboard, then the people still on the boat should toss a life ring or any flotation device close to them so that they have something to hold onto and keep them afloat until they are rescued.

A life ring is the best option due to the high visibility patterning on the ring, this can help to spot the person’s exact position. 

Once the man overboard has been validated the boat can then turn around to rescue the overboard passenger.

However, for larger ships like cargo ships or aircraft carriers, which cannot directly navigate a U-turn and pull the fallen passenger from the sea.

A smaller staffed boat, such as an MOB boat can be used to save the victim from the waters instead. 

One Last Bow

The most likely cause of someone falling overboard is carelessness.

On smaller boats such as speedboats, sailboats and such, standing up and not holding on while the boat is moving is the most common cause of a trip overboard. 

The best way to prevent a ‘man overboard’ situation is just to be careful and stay seated if at all possible.

If you are on a large chip such as a cruiser, or aircraft carrier, falling overboard is very unlikely, but it is still wise to keep one hand on the boat at all times. 

So simply, do not fool around near the edge, do not drink alcohol and go near the edge, stay inside during bad weather, and wear non-slip shoes, and if you can, try to stay seated.


All product names, logos, and brands are property of their respective owners. All company, product and service names used in this website are for identification purposes only. Use of these names, logos, and brands does not imply endorsement.

It is our policy to make every effort to respect the copyrights of outside parties. If you believe that your copyright has been misused, please provide us with a message stating your position and we will endeavor to correct any misuse immediately.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we may receive an affiliate commission, at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep this website alive. Learn more here.

igor desperatesailors

Hi, I’m Igor, Skipper of S/Y "The Hooker". A decade ago, I conquered my childhood dream: to be a sailing skipper, own a sailing yacht. Yes, it knocked dullness out of my urban life — Read more →

Articles: 78

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Amazon Disclosure is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of, Inc., or its affiliates.

Please refer to our Privacy & Affiliate policy for more details.