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Tue Apr 18, 2017 at 10:52am

Owning a narrow boat as a rule brings mainly, enjoyment and a lot of fun. But it also can have its down side. Things can, and do sometimes do go wrong just from time to time, but armed with some knowledge and a bit of experience you can overcome most problems yourself without too much trouble and expense.

The Problem 

One problem you may encounter is “Man Overboard” let’s look into this situation, highlight possible causes, and give you solutions and provide you with knowledge so it can be prevented.

The Possible Causes

More than likely this situation is an accident caused by a lack of attention, slipping on wet decks, loss of balance through hitting an obstruction or tripping over. However people messing about and crew members playfully pushing each other is also another cause, so at all times be aware of your surroundings and act sensibly.

The Solutions

General common sense and being prepared is the key to everyone staying safe on board. If this situation does arise the first thing to do is NOT to panic, don’t jump in and don’t let others jump in either. Why? The water is very cold even in summer and you will only be adding to the problem rather than solving it. Keep sight of the person in the water at all times.

On narrow canals and slow, shallow rivers. Put your engine out of gear. Don’t reverse the boat – the person in the water could be dragged into the propeller. Throw them a line or a lifebelt and tell them to try to stand up, if it’s a canal they might be able to walk out. Steer the boat slowly to the bank and get one of your passengers off to help the person get out of the water.  

On wider or deeper waterways. Throw a lifebuoy to the person in the water. Keep a constant watch to ensure your propeller is well away from them. Stop the propeller immediately by selecting neutral gear if there’s a risk of them getting close to it. If you are on a river you may need to turn so as to approach them slowly going against the stream. Pull them to the side of the boat and help them aboard with a ladder, rope or pole.  

How To Avoid In The Future

  • Keep lifebelt and rope available, and in good working order.
  • Keep the decks clean and clear of ropes and other obstructions
  • Wear non-slip soled shoes.
  • Use a non-slip surface on the gunwales. 
  • In tunnels and bridges keep within the form of the boat.
  • Skipper should make all crew aware of protruding branches where the canal narrows
  • Be prepared. Make sure everyone on the boat knows the drill – and knows where to find the lifeline or lifebelt.
  • If the skipper falls overboard another crew member should know how to stop the propeller and steer the boat.
  • Practice the drill. It's better to learn it before an accident happens.
  • Wear a life jacket at all times, especially in deep or tidal waters