Home > Safety & Security > Avoiding Boat Accidents

Avoiding Boat Accidents

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 15 Aug 2010 | comments*Discuss
Avoiding Boat Accidents Common Reasons

Although any activity involving being out on the water can sometimes be unpredictable and even the most highly skilled skipper and crew can run into trouble, boating is a relatively safe activity. If you’ve taken the time and trouble to learn about the types of things that can go wrong and how to avoid them or to get out of a dangerous situation and in understanding safety procedures and putting them into practice, most boating accidents could probably be avoided.

Many of the issues surrounding boating and the hazards and dangers that can cause accidents are discussed in several other articles contained on this website but for the purpose of this article, we will consider some of the more common reasons which result in accidents and how they can easily be avoided.


The majority of boats are designed not to sink unless they are severely damaged or are hit by freak weather conditions or because of a serious collision but smaller craft in particular can be prone to capsizing simply because people simply don’t bother to follow the rules or understand what is likely to cause a boat to capsize.

Firstly, don’t overload your boat with either too much equipment or too many people. Any boat you live on will have been designed to carry so many passengers and so much equipment in terms of overall weight. It’s important that you find out what the limits are, not to exceed them and to ensure that both people on board as well as equipment are properly distributed in terms of weight proportions to particular areas of the boat, especially if you’re living on a relatively small craft.

Falls, Slips & Trips

Many accidents on boats are as the result of falls, slips and trips and most of these could be avoided if people ensured that they wore proper non-slip footwear, cleaned up any spillages and excess water on deck as soon as it occurs, took more time to get around the boat as opposed to rushing about and keeping walkways and access routes clear and unobstructed.

Alcohol & Boating

If you’re moored up safely for the evening and not intending to move on until the next day, then, of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to have a few drinks and let your hair down a bit if you’re staying on the boat. The problem arises when people have had too much to drink yet are still determined to get from point A to point B.

In spite of many boating brochures enticing you by describing the attractions of pulling in to a quayside and enjoying a leisurely pub lunch and maybe a beer or two alongside a river, the simple fact is that boating, water and too much alcohol are simply a bad combination. Not only does too much alcohol fatigue you more whilst driving a boat, your judgement and concentration become impaired in much the same way as they do if you were driving a car, albeit you might be travelling much more slowly.

Nevertheless, statistics have consistently shown that alcohol has been the leading contributory factor in a large proportion of boating accidents and has played some part in being one of the main causes of boating fatalities.

Safety Issues & Being Prepared

Many accidents could be avoided if people took the time to take a boat safety course. Many accidents are caused simply by the skipper’s inability to know how to operate a boat safely and the dos and don’ts if a person falls overboard or a boat gets into trouble. Things like the failure to shut down an engine or a propeller in certain situations have been the cause of so many accidents, severe injuries and even fatalities.

Other issues where accidents could easily have been prevented include things like poor decision making, especially with regard to setting sail when weather and sea or river conditions are not conducive to travelling, not understanding the rules of the river and boating etiquette and poor judgement which has resulted in a collision either with another vessel or a fixed object.

Many of these issues are highlighted in other articles on this website but on a general level, the more prepared you are for any emergency and the more knowledgeable you are about boat safety and dealing with difficult situations when out boating, the far less likely you are to encounter an accident.

It’s certainly true that the vast majority of boating accidents could easily have been avoided if people paid more attention to boat safety and the risks that can accompany boating.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
(never shown)
Enter word:
Latest Comments
  • Alfiethelaplurcher
    Re: Living on a Boat - Winter Considerations
    I have a question on council tax ... I have a non exclusive mooring in a private marina My mooring fee…
    2 August 2020
  • Ben
    Re: Renting a Houseboat
    Hi, I'm a professional looking to rent a boat for 12 months in or around Oxfordshire. If anyone has or knows of someone wanting to rent a…
    19 July 2020
  • ged
    Re: Importing a Boat, What Are the Duties Etc?
    19 July 2020
  • Punk
    Re: Renting a Houseboat
    I'm desperately searching for a boat to rent... I was on the water 10 years til I went to America in Feb.. I've come back to nothing and am in…
    17 July 2020
  • Simon
    Re: What is Your Address If You Live on a Boat?
    I have a beautiful 14 berth converted fishing boat with a permanent mooring at Portishead Marina in Bristol. I…
    16 July 2020
  • Fashionista
    Re: Renting a Houseboat
    I’m looking to rent a houseboat in Edinburgh for a year, non smoker, responsible, good references.
    2 July 2020
  • Karlos
    Re: Renting a Houseboat
    Hi im a professional male looking to rent a boat in Cheshire long term as im looking to buy my own boat but want to experience the boat life…
    1 July 2020
  • Twix
    Re: Renting a Houseboat
    Hello I'm a professional clown, juggler and musician looking for a boat to live and work on for a few months... Please call 07432 235 247 No…
    26 June 2020
  • Kachina
    Re: What is Your Address If You Live on a Boat?
    I'm looking to live on a Barge/Boat for a few months anywhere in UK. A lone or share either way.
    26 June 2020
  • Simon
    Re: Renting a Houseboat
    Hi. Looking for a house boat rent initially for 6 months from July 2020 in the Cheshire / North East Wales area. One bedroom would be fine but…
    7 June 2020