In an ideal world, safety would be second nature to those choosing a holiday on a canal or riverboat.
Better still, holidaymakers would have sufficient tuition or experience to prepare for their trip. But even armed with skills and knowledge, accidents can still happen.
In holiday mode it’s easy for your attention to wane. Someone may simply slip over on a wet deck or people having fun may unintentionally cause an accident.
So what do you do if someone falls overboard?
“The first thing to do is not to panic,” says RYA IW Trainer Tim Allen from Watercraft Training in Buckinghamshire.
“General common sense and being prepared is the key to everyone staying safe on board. So don’t jump in and don’t let others jump in either.”
He explains that water can be cold even in summer and you will only be adding to the problem rather than solving it.
First put your engine out of gear to stop the propeller. Don’t reverse back or the person could be dragged into the propeller and throw a line or a lifebelt to the person overboard.
This ensures that the person won’t be sucked into the prop and they have something to hang on to keep afloat.
Keep sight of the person in the water at all times.
In shallow canals and slow rivers they may be able to stand up and walk out. Steer the boat slowly to the bank and help them out of the water and back onto the boat.
On wider or deeper waterways, throw a lifebuoy to the person in the water.
Keep a constant watch. 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.
What about avoiding accidents?
Should I take a course?
Training is brilliant preparation for a boating holiday, it’s great fun and you will learn so much. The RYA’s Inland Waterways Helmsman or Crew Courses are the perfect way to build your confidence up.
Although the risk of disease is small it is best to take precautions after falling in: