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Two boaters holding onto a capsized boat

Always wear a U.S. Coast Guard–approved personal flotation device or PFD (life jacket) while you’re in the boat. Wearing a PFD will keep you afloat in the water, prevent drowning, and delay the onset of hypothermia.

If you get caught in a storm and your boat swamps or capsizes, stay with the boat. Most small boats will float even when upside down or filled with water. Signal passing boats by waving a bright cloth, or raising an oar if one is available.

Placing an oar under your back and shoulders and another under your legs can help you float. If decoys are in reach, stuff them inside your jacket.

Chest waders and hip boots also will help you stay afloat.

  • If in chest waders, trap air in the waders by bending your knees and raising your feet. Lie on your back.
  • If in hip boots, trap air in the boots by bending your knees. Lie on your stomach.

Equip your boat with a means for re-entry (ladder, sling, etc.) to use if you should fall into the water.

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