15 Perished in US Sailing Tragedies in 2016

Every year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the United States Coast Guard, and the Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety publish a report of statistics about recreational boating accidents. The 2016 report was just published and although there were fewer sailing deaths than last year, the numbers of general boating deaths, accidents, injuries, and property damage are up sharply.

It’s an extensive report of:

  • Accident causes and conditions
  • Accident types
  • Operator/passenger information
  • Casualty summaries
  • Boat registration data

It’s well worth reading to learn from the mistakes of others and it’s quite detailed:

  • 83 pages long
  • 38 tables of statistics
  • 16 charts

In a nutshell, the Coast Guard recorded 4,463 accidents that involved 701 deaths, 2,903 injuries and approximately $49 million of damage to property that resulted from recreational boating accidents in 2016. Those figures involved vessels of all types.

Most of the accidents that had casualties involved motorboats and personal watercraft, which is no surprise to most skippers. Readers of this blog will be most interested in the accidents that involved sailboats.

Sailing is a comparatively safe sport. Speeds are slower and it requires more skill to pilot a sailboat. We’ve earned a good safety record but it’s not perfect and we can all learn lessons from this year’s report.

To make it easy to glean and remember the most important points for sailors from this year’s report, I created the following poster. It reflects only the data from the report that is related to sailboats; our own report card, if you will.

Click to download the free printable

What you should take away from this is:

  • Too many people die in sailing accidents every year, including many children. Be a safe skipper.
  • Many more people suffer life-threatening injuries. Sail responsibly.
  • Know how to recover a crew member from cold water quickly. Be prepared.
  • You’re as likely to have an accident with another boat as anything else. Don’t assume the other guy will do the right thing, you do it.
  • Most accidents are caused by somebody not paying attention. Always keep watch.
  • Everyone should wear a personal flotation device to cut their risk of drowning. Be smart, not stubborn.

You can download your own copy of the report for free here.

You may freely distribute this poster anywhere you want without my permission. In fact, PLEASE DO. Put it on your club’s website, post it on your Facebook page, print it out and pin it up on your marina’s bulletin board, wherever. To make it even easier, click the poster above to download a printable PDF file even if you’re not a subscriber of this blog. Want to subscribe? Read on.

Let’s all help raise awareness about sailing safety and let’s start aboard our own sailboats.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Ed in Gig Harbor says:

    Thanks for sharing the report and creating the poster distilling sailing data. For several of the cells, you could even add the quick statement of ‘safe practice’ at the bottom… For example:

    A safe skipper saves lives!
    Sail responsibly!
    Be prepared & practice crew recovery!
    Don’t assume – do the right thing!
    Always keep watch!
    Wear PFDs; be smart not stubborn!


  2. capnrehab says:

    Thanks for reminding us to learn lessons from other’s mistakes. Much better than personal experience!

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