In truth, as long as you have the proper safety gear aboard and enjoy your time on the water in a responsible manner, boating is an incredibly safe activity. In fact, it gets safer all the time—according to US Coast Guard statistics, the number of reported boating accidents has dropped by about half during the past two decades. Accidents do, however, happen. And whether it’s due to an accident, mechanical problems, or a medical situation, there will be times when you’ll find it necessary to transfer people from one boat to another while you’re out on open water.

In some situations, transferring from one boat to another is a must. Here, members of the Annapolis Fire Department have boarded a small fishing boat to help de-water it. A second boat (from the Natural Resources Police) transferred the boat’s captain and passengers onto their own vessel, and returned them to shore. Photo courtesy of USCG.

In some situations, transferring from one boat to another is a must. Here, members of the Annapolis Fire Department have boarded a small fishing boat to help de-water it. A second boat (from the Natural Resources Police) transferred the boat’s captain and passengers onto their own vessel, and returned them to shore. Photo courtesy of USCG.



This can be a somewhat dangerous maneuver, and according to the experts at Sea Tow, it can be challenging even in ideal conditions. So we reached out to Captain and CEO Joseph Frohnhoefer III, and Operations Administer Glenn Goldsmith, to get some tips on how to make a passenger transfer from one boat to another as safe as possible.

boats.com: Why is it dangerous to transfer people from boat to boat?

Sea Tow: There are numerous factors that can make it dangerous: the sizes of the boats, weather conditions, wave size, the motion of the vessels, the boat handling skills of the captains on both boats, and the agility of the people looking to transfer from boat to boat, are all important variables.

Calm conditions are best, when transferring people from boat to boat.

Calm conditions are best, when transferring people from boat to boat.



boats.com: What’s the best technique to use?

Sea Tow: First, it should only be attempted when the situation and conditions are favorable. The boats should both be in neutral and securely tied to each other in calm seas before any transfer is attempted, and everyone should be wearing a life vest. A person on each boat should be assisting with the transfer, one to help the person safely disembark from one vessel, and another to help the person safely arrive on the second vessel. The person transferring boats should maintain three points of contact with the boats during the transfer process. Hold onto either the person assisting with the transfer, or a secure part of the boat (such as the rail or gunwale), while stepping from one boat to the other – and never jump.

boats.com: What if the transfer isn’t going well?

Sea Tow: If anyone involved isn’t completely comfortable with the process, or the conditions are not suitable, abort the transfer. Either wait for the conditions to improve and attempt it again later, or move to a more suitable location. Ideally, back at the dock.

For more tips on safety, mechanical issues, and other tow-related topics, be sure to check out:

Editor's Note: Promotional consideration for this article was paid by Sea Tow.

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