Wyoming Boating Safety Course


The major cause of fatalities involving small boats is drownings from falls overboard, which is why it is important for boaters to wear their personal flotation devices (PFDs). In certain weather conditions and on some vessels, boaters are wise to wear a safety harness with a safety line secured to the vessel. These falls overboard may have several causes; however, often times they are the direct result of a vessel capsizing.

Capsizing—the overturning of a vessel on its side or turned over—is most common in small sailboats and canoes. Capsizing can occur from operator error or from heavy winds and rough waters. Capsizing illustrates the importance of always wearing a PFD. Luckily, these smaller boats will usually stay afloat after capsizing and provide support to the victims.


  • Slow down, stop if possible, and throw something buoyant to assist the person overboard (this will also help to briefly mark the spot if the person overboard submerges).
  • Assign one person to keep sight of the overboard person and have him/her continuously point to the victim's location.
  • Carefully maneuver to recover the overboard person — keep them on the operator's side of the boat for powerboats.
  • Establish contact with the victim using a buoyant heaving line or lifebuoy secured to the boat with a line, and recover the person. Be sure to turn off the prop — if retrieving from the sternrear portion of a vessel.. A heavy rope, chain or cable secured at both ends and draped over the side, almost touching the water, can provide a makeshift step if no boarding ladder is available.


  • Improvise flotation: If the boat is not nearby — use floating items around you (an empty cooler, for example) to help you stay out of the water and afloat.
  • When separated from your boat in a swift river current, you should float on your back with your feet downstream.


  • Be sure to stay centered and low in the vessel.
  • Always maintain three points of contact when moving about the vessel.
  • Do not overload the vessel, and ensure the load is distributed evenly.
  • Take corners at a safe speed and angle.
  • Watch for other boats' waves and take them head-on off the bow.
  • Reduce your speed or avoid boating in bad weather that creates rough water.
  • Remember to never tie an anchor rodethe anchor line. line to the sternrear portion of a vessel. of the boat. This will place even more weight at the back of the boat and increase the chances of swampingfor a boat to fill with water to the point where it will sink.