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Boating and sailing have become popular forms of outdoor recreation. Whether maritime sailing or enjoying water sports in inland lakes, almost everyone has access to some kind of boating in their area. While boating was the province of only the very wealthy, today the middle class are able to afford motor and sail boats. However, boating is not without associated risks. Many amateur boating emergencies find they are not prepared for a disaster when one strikes. Leaks, a capsizing boat, or running a boat aground are all dangerous situations that can happen both at sea and on inland waters. Knowing how to prepare and handle an emergency before one occurs will improve the chances of a positive outcome to your situation.
Boats can take on water for a variety of reasons. Knowing what has caused your boat or ship to start taking on water is the first step to correcting the problem. One common cause is a problem in the design of the boat. The boat's transom is a flat panel that forms the rear or stern of the boat. This panel is usually made of wood or fiberglass and stands perpendicular to the water. On a motorboat, this is where the outboard motor is bolted to the frame of the boat. If a boat has a transom that is too low to the water's surface, the boat will take on water. Human error can be another unfortunate reason for a boat to take on water. Forgetting to replace a boat's drain plug will not have any immediate effect. However, as soon as the boat starts moving forward, water will begin leaking into the boat from the lower back-end where the drain is located. Finally, accidentally running the boat aground or scraping the boat's hull on an object can cause the boat to take on water.
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Once you notice your boat is taking on water, you should immediately begin following these steps. You should put on a life jacket immediately, even if the leak appears to be slow. If you are out at sea, use your radio to call for emergency assistance from the Coast Guard. While it may be embarrassing to call for help, it is better to be safe than to risk being stuck adrift at sea. Next, if you can see the cause of the leak, try to create an improvised plug with anything you have available. Try to jam the plug you have as far into the hole as possible. While this will likely not stop the leak, it should slow the amount of water coming through the hole long enough to give you time to take action. Finally, if you believe you are close enough to shore, try to get the boat to land as quickly as possible. Even if this means running the boat aground, it is better to damage the boat than to risk being stuck in the water. Following these safety tips should give you the best chance of handling a boating emergency.