Life preserver affixed to the side of a boat

What Should You Do If Another Boat is in Distress?

As a new or veteran boater, you need to know what to do if you see another boat in distress. If the situation was reversed, then you’d certainly want any other boater who came across your situation to be able to help, after all.

What should you do if you see another boat in distress?

  • Get closer: Carefully steer your vessel closer to the boat you think is in distress. As you approach, it should become clearer if something is actually wrong. For example, look or listen for distress signals or signs of smoke. If you can do it safely, pull your boat alongside the other but no so close as to risk a collision.
  • Ask if they need assistance: If you can see or hear someone, then ask if they need assistance. They might have anchored intentionally and are not in distress, for example. When you cannot find anyone, but the boat seems to be damaged or sinking, you can assume that it is in danger. But do not attempt to board the other boat at any time.
  • Call for emergency help: After confirming that the other boat is in distress, call for emergency help using your onboard radio and smartphone. There could be injured parties onboard who need emergency medical attention, so be sure to ask if anyone is hurt and relay the information to the authorities.
  • Prepare floatation devices: Your primary concern should be to get as many people off the boat in distress and onto you as you can manage. Prepare spare and emergency floatation devices like life vests and lifesavers. If possible, you can toss the life jackets across the water and to the other people on the boat, but this is not ideal. You could miss and the life vest will be lost in the waves. Of course, the situation will be much better if the people on the other boat are already equipped with floatation devices, so they can enter the water and swim to your boat.
  • Exchange information: When everyone is on your vessel and safe, you can start exchanging contact information with them. You will need to report the boat accident to the authorities, even if the authorities were never called to the scene. The information you get from them will be important in that report and any future communications that might become necessary.

Important note: In every step of this process, you need to prioritize your own safety. Do not attempt to render assistance if doing so will put you or others in harm’s way. There is no benefit to placing your vessel, crew, or family members in distress, too. Be safe, smart, and cautious when you are helping.

If someone has been in a boat accident on Lake Erie or elsewhere in Ohio, then Murray & Murray can help them file a claim against the liable party. Call (419) 664-3711 or contact our firm for more information.