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How do I react with an inflatable boat in an emergency at sea?


Information on the correct behavior in emergency situations on waters with inflatable boats, man over board behavior and much more

The most important basic rule in order not to get into an emergency situation at all is the right preparation! This also includes not overestimating your skills and the capabilities of your boat including the equipment. The dinghy attendant can give suggestions, but in the end he can only offer a little help. Every dangerous situation is felt individually and also requires a level-headed and considered action by the skipper. Unfortunately, unlike in traffic, you can’t just go to the safe side of the road and wait for help at sea. It is also important to deal with it early on, where and how can I get help? This can also include trustworthy people getting help ashore if you are not back from your trip at an agreed time.


  • Territory knowledge (obtain guide, sea maps, etc. and familiarize yourself with the territory and its special features before the start of the trip)
  • Obtain and evaluate the weather forecast
  • Check and regular maintenance of the systems (e.g .: engine, GPS)
  • correct equipment including safety equipment
  • Where and how can I get help?
  • Don’t overestimate yourself!

In dangerous or emergency situations:

Keep calm!

Act confidently and act carefully!

Build trust with the crew!

The skipper is not only responsible for his crew, he is also the reference person in a dangerous or emergency situation and he is usually the one who can best deal with such a situation. That is why the crew will pay special attention to him and only act prudently and prudently if he also acts carefully!

emergency rescue
emergency rescue

Basic rules:

Self-protection! Put on clothing, life jacket and, if necessary, emergency flash

Determine position (including time)! Help can only come if you are found!

if you cannot solve a dangerous or emergency situation with on-board resources or if there is a danger that leads to an emergency situation:

Call the emergency! Radio and cellular

Use emergency signals! Missiles, smoke buoys, NC flags, etc. In addition to the emergency call, it makes sense to make yourself noticeable to the surrounding ships. It often takes a long time for the rescue workers to be on site while help might be available in the immediate vicinity, but it does not take place because you do not make yourself noticeable. This is especially a problem if you only send a call for help via cellular network!

Stay on the ship! Distances are often underestimated, and currents can make swimming progress impossible due to wind and tides. As long as the ship is swimming you can be seen better and you have a safe platform!

Wait for help! Monitor radio and mobile communications, keep an eye out and draw the attention of the rescue workers to yourself! Especially with imprecise position information, it can be difficult for the rescue workers to recognize and find the victim!

Danger and emergency situations:

emerging strong wind / storm

Good preparation is noticeable here. If you know where a protected harbor is nearby and how the weather is developing (wind direction, wave development, etc.) you can deal with this dangerous situation reasonably well and avoid it. Will you still be surprised to make the boat and the crew storm clear. Often it is easier to ride with the waves and seek a shelter in a lee position than to ride against the waves. Be careful, however, of surf waves that can form in front of some ports (often described in the area guides). In small bays it can be difficult to leave your supposedly safe place. In addition, a change in weather can often be seen very late in a sheltered bay. If radio or mobile radio is available, it makes sense to inform the rescue control center about the location, position and planned direction of travel at an early stage so that the rescue workers can assess the situation of the individual seeking help at an early stage.

Engine failure

If you cannot fix an engine failure with on-board resources (and it is not due to the fuel tap), you are in principle not in an emergency situation. If you can draw the attention of other boaters to yourself (e.g. by waving a line or by radio), the situation can be easily defused. It becomes more difficult when you are further out at sea and the weather also changes. An emergency situation can then arise that requires making an emergency call or drawing attention to oneself with signaling means. Also be careful of offshore wind. The strength is often not visible in the immediate vicinity of the bank after the wind blows over trees or houses on the bank and only later hits the water. While the water can be as smooth as a mirror near the shore, the wind blows at storm strength maybe 300 meters further. In addition, the wind drives you further and further out to sea!

emergency 2

Serious illness or injury to a crew member

See also first aid. In any case, inform the rescue control center and follow the instructions of the control center. At this point, it can only be recommended to refresh your first aid knowledge on a regular basis and also to check the first-aid kit to see whether it is still suitable!

Man Overboard (MOB)

MOB is usually not a problem with a motorboat in fine weather and calm conditions. It is important that the boat driver slowly approaches the person in the water (against the wind or current) and that it is uncoupled when picking up or that the engine is switched off so that there is no danger from the propeller. In principle, it is advisable to switch off the engine so that nothing happens if someone hits the throttle in the hectic pace. Exception in rivers with high flow speeds where the boat has to be stabilized again and again. Nevertheless, work extremely carefully with the propeller and, if necessary, with a line and the rescue equipment.

The situation becomes dangerous when the water temperature is cold or when it is difficult to take in the victim (e.g. due to high waves). There is a great danger here for the victim. In cold water temperatures it can lead to hyperventilation. The cold water takes your breath away, so to speak; casualties often do not die of hypothermia but drown. In any case, immediately throw life-saving appliances to the casualty. Stabilize him on the boat if possible and also ask for help. Especially if you cannot bring the victim on board yourself or you lose sight of him! With an inflatable boat, the easiest way to pull the person aboard is stomach first in the middle of the boat.


Stay with the boat if possible! Even a capsized boat can swim for a long time (especially rubber boats, of course). The same applies here: You are seen better and it is safer to stay on the boat than to swim in the water, which is exhausting.


The worst situation that can arise on board! It should be avoided at all costs! In this case, extinguish immediately with available (hopefully easily accessible) fire extinguishing agents. You aim at the source of the fire and not at the flames or smoke! If possible, send the emergency call at the same time and if you have to leave the boat, stay together in the water!

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