There’s nothing we boaters fear more than sinking. Fortunately, most of us will never be forced into dealing with such a situation. That said, it’s imperative you know how to react, if you ever find yourself standing on a deck that’s under water and getting deeper by the moment. Here are three imperative things that can help save the day.
1. Keep the powerplant running. The longer you have power the closer you can get to shore, or another boat. In many cases it will also allow you to maintain power for the electronics. So do whatever it takes to keep that engine going; this could include moving a gas can to prevent contamination, maintaining forward motion to prevent the boat from settling, or (as seen above) shifting weight forward to keep the power-head as high as possible.
2. Never underestimate bailing. It’s absolutely amazing how much water an adult can remove from a sinking boat, with a bucket and some adrenaline in his or her system. In fact, an able-bodied person can evacuate water a lot faster than a standard 500-GPH bilge pump. If there’s enough water in your boat to over-top your feet, you should assign everyone who has their hands free to bailing ASAP.
3. Call in the cavalry sooner, rather than later. Sure, you may be able to recover control. Yes, it may be embarrassing to ask for help. But if you don’t ask and the opportunity passes you by… As soon as you realize you’re in danger of sinking, don’t hesitate to use the VHF, satellite messenger, or cell phone. Any of these items could become waterlogged or run out of batteries, so don’t risk waiting. And if manual signaling is your only option, again, don’t hesitate. Fire off a flare, blow the air-horn, or if you don’t have any other options, tie an orange life jacket to a boat hook or fishing net, and wave it overhead. (Assuming, of course, you already have everyone onboard wearing their own life jacket).
When all else fails, remember: stick with the boat. Most made today will float to some degree, even if upside-down. And a hull is a lot easier for SAR personnel to spot than a single person in the water. Unless land is a stone’s throw away, never “make a swim for it”.