Fish In Greens

What is Most Likely to Cause Someone to Fall Overboard?

Causes Of Falling Overboard

The hobby of boating is one of the oldest hobbies that people have adopted. It’s become much more commercial nowadays with people looking at various sights at sea, going for a cruise, looking at exotic wildlife, or even for fishing trips.

All of these experiences are exciting and worthwhile, but there comes some danger to these experiences. The most common danger is that people fall off of their boats.

The likelihood of someone falling off is the highest as people don’t usually know the basic rules when it comes to boating. This is the case for all kinds of boats, ranging from small boats such as canoes, fishing boats, etc., and even bigger ships such as tankers and cruise ships.

For smaller ships, this happens a lot more often, because just the act of standing can cause someone to lose their balance, and tip-off overboard. The small boats rock back and fro a lot, and that is why people fall off of smaller boats.

For larger boats, people usually lean over the railing and don’t exercise caution. With just one sudden turn of a boat, these people fall into the unpredictable waters.

The Most Likely Causes of Falling Overboard:

Carelessness is the number one cause of people falling overboard. The lack of caution always causes people to fall into the water because the waves of the water are dangerous.

All boats have a general rule of keeping at least one person on hand to monitor any person falling off. This person can alert the captain or other people on deck to help with the passengers that fall offboard. Thankfully, many boats have handholds that passengers can latch unto if they fear they may fall off.

The best suggestion that people can follow is not going on deck when there’s rough weather. When there’s extremely windy weather, or there’s a storm brewing about, avoid going to the deck at all costs.

If it’s really necessary to go on deck, then you’ll have to follow some instructions to maximize your chances of not falling off.

First of all, attach yourself to a boat harness. This would allow you to stay attached to the boat at all times if you were to fall off. This prevents the passenger from drifting off into the sea or even saving them from drowning, depending on the harness’s length.

Keep one hand on the boat, when you have difficulty in balancing yourself. Sailboats are the most likely model of boats where people fall off of, so avoid going on deck when the boat isn’t stable. Keep calm, steady, and sober, and you’ll be able to keep yourself safe.

Potential risks of falling over:

Falling overboard is one of the most perilous situations one can find themselves in. With multiple factors stacked against you, passengers’ rescues and recovery could range from easy to near impossible.

The Fall:

When considering going overboard, the size of the boat is one of the most prevalent factors. Even though water is a liquid, anyone who’s dived in with their stomach open can tell you how painful it is.

The height of the boat is far from the water, which adds to the position of crashing into the water, and the person’s physical state can spell disaster for them.
If you find yourself falling off and have any time to react, make sure to position yourself in a streamlined fashion, just like how professional divers do.

Try to decrease your surface area of impact, to avoid any unnecessary injuries. Remember, the wider area you cover with your body upon impact, the harder the water will hit. This can even cause the person to go out cold for a while, which is itself a risky situation in itself.

The Temperature of the Water:

While most seas support warm temperatures that soon can change when nightfall comes, the risk of hypothermia is always high when considering falling into the sea.

With the effect of shivering waters, breathing patterns get disrupted. In the confusion of breathing normally, people will swallow in seawater, which itself is unsanitary, causing a myriad of problems.

Swimming in cold waters is extremely hard because it’s not the ideal for your body to move in. With your body losing more heat then its producing, it causes increased fatigue, which increases the likelihood of drowning, every minute you’re in the water.

Speed of the current:

Depending on the type of body you fall onto, you can face multiple problems. If you’re in the sea, your survivability all depends on how good of a swimmer you are.

The huge currents of the sea will whisk you away and the best advice there is to conserve as much stamina as possible and go with the waves of the sea, instead of swimming against it.

The risk of being pushed towards the ship’s propellers is a real risk and not something out of a horror movie. If you even avoid that, you’ll be swimming in rough waters, and the news of your fall may come late if people aren’t near to witness it. Even if people notice you falling over, rescuing people can become difficult due to the waves of the sea.


This is the number one reason people die, whether it’s because of their loss in the sea or the wild. The temperature of the water depends on how fast you’ll lose body heat.

If the sea or ocean is near the equator, the likelihood of hypothermia is low, but the farther away from the equator line the body of water is, the riskier it becomes. Hypothermia is mainly caused when you’re body loses heat faster than it produces.

You should be aware if you’re suffering from hypothermia and the following symptoms show:
⦁ Incoherent speech.
⦁ Stiff joints.
⦁ Loss of motor skills.
⦁ Slowed heartbeat.
⦁ Severe shivering.
⦁ Inability to think.

Oceanic wildlife:

There are various oceanic life that may seem scary but are pretty docile as long as you act smart and keep your distance.

Surprisingly, shark attacks are very low and do not attack unless provoked. Just stay far away from them, and you’ll be fine. Just be careful if you’re bleeding because sharks can smell blood from miles away, which causes them to get aggressive.

Be wary of jellyfish as well. They give a little shock, which is harmless, but if the shocks mount up, they may leave you paralyzed. There are generally harmless, just as long as you keep your distance from them.

Rescuing overboard passengers:

An overboard can be rescued fairly easily, just as long as the seas are calm, and someone has identified someone falling over.

Shouting out “man overboard” will alert all hands on deck about the passenger, and an immediate stop to the ship will be made. This also causes the officials on deck to keep track of the passenger out in the sea, as he doesn’t drift off into the vast body of water.

Depending on the surrounding conditions of the falling of the passenger, the difficulty of the rescue can rise. If the seas are calm, the rescue is quite easy, and it doesn’t take much time for them to keep track and rescue the passenger.

However, if the tides are high and the weather is far from normal, swift action needs to be taken. Otherwise, the passenger may get lost to the sea in a matter of minutes.

If the time of the over boarding is at night, it becomes dangerous because of the lack of light to keep track of the passenger. Unless the passenger can shout very well, which is still not enough in most cases, he may be lost to the sea.

Having something reflective on hand or even something that can be illuminated is useful to have and can lead to your immediate recovery.
Once a person goes overboard, throwing a life ring is the best thing to do because at least the person will be attached to the boat and will keep afloat.

This life ring also helps detect the person, hence increasing the survivability and rescue of the passenger exponentially.
Bigger boats can’t make a U-turn to save out fallen passengers. Instead of making a massive U-turn, smaller staffed boats are lowered to the sea to save the overboard victim.

Tips for overboard passengers:

Now comes the part of what the overboard passenger should do. They should remain calm, relaxed, and hopeful of their rescue. Panic causes indecisiveness and make the matter much worse.

The decisions they make at that point can result in life and death. Controlling your actions, your movement, and getting your senses together should be the priority.

The passenger should try to float, rather than swim, wasting energy as the sea waves will just drive them farther away. Lay on the back, with the head just above the water and to conserve as much energy as possible until help arrives. Lay on the sea with arms and legs stretched out in all positions to maximize the floating technique.

The dead man’s float is the most effective technique when it comes to floating. Here are the steps for a successful dead man float:
1. Fill your lungs with a good grasp of air and place your face in the water.
2. Completely remove your body from tension and let it hang.
3. Whenever you need a breath of fresh air, just tilt your head up and breathe in. Keep moving your limbs from time to time to help you float.
4. The breathing technique is key here. Get deep breaths and exhale deeply as well. This will cause your heart to slow down, your metabolism to slow down, which will save you a lot of calories and energy, and take it from the experts, you’ll need all the energy you need.

The odds of surviving a better if the passenger knows what to do in those situations. Even without anything on hand, people can survive for over two days. Such popular stories are found all over the world, where people kept on surviving with the sheer power of will.

Preventing falling overboard:

There are various factors you need to consider to keep yourself from falling over, some are obvious, and some are not. No matter what, if these rules are kept in the back of your mind, you won’t be falling into the water anytime soon.

Avoid any shenanigans near the edge of the boat:

As many times its been reported that people do dangerous stunts near the edge of the boat, out of pure risk. Many people try to get a good video in or a selfie to impress their colleagues, but this utterly reckless and just makes them more likely to fall over.

Stay away from the drink:

This is more apparent on cruises. When people have enough to drink, it’s better to retire them into their cabins for some R&R. If you leave them in the drunken state, sooner or later, they’ll wind up near the edge, and eventually, they’ll fall off.

Avoid going out in foul weather:

When its raining outside or the weather is far from normal, make sure to stay inside. The risk of falling over increases as just the ship tilting at one side or strong winds can cause someone to go overboard.


From all the points gathered in this article, all of the major causes of falling overboard can be attributed to carelessness. If people are careful of their surroundings and take the proper precautionary steps, they can avoid falling off the boats.

All this knowledge will help people to take care of in the future. Keeping safety first is the paramount feature that all ships strive to implement, and these tips will help you play your part in being a responsible passenger.


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