What to do if Something Happens on, to Your Boat

Being on the water in your boat can be a real joy on places like Columbia River, but it pays to know what to do if you’re involved in an accident in Oregon, or if something happens to your personal watercraft (PWC) when it’s on shore.

A capsized PWC may take on water, but it is designed not to sink.

  • If you fall from a moving craft, hit the water rear end first, with legs together and arms over your head. A safety lanyard, attached to your wrist or life vest, should kill the engine. A running engine can damage the craft and cause injury to you. (If you become separated from the craft and the engine is still running, pull the lanyard off immediately.)
  • Exercise caution when righting a craft to avoid injury. Roll the craft over in a clockwise direction to prevent water from the exhaust system from entering the engine.
  • In the event of a serious emergency, or if you are injured, stay with the PWC until help arrives. Use your whistle, visual distress signal and/or mirror to attract attention.
  • If you carry a handheld combination GPS/VHF unit, you will be able to call for help and provide your exact location.

Reporting an accident

The following accidents must be reported by the owner or operator of the craft to the proper marine law enforcement authority in the state or location in which the accident occurred.

  • Immediate notification in the event of a death or disappearance.
  • A formal report must be filed within 48 hours if a person dies, or if there are injuries requiring more than first aid.
  • A formal report must be filed within 10 days for accidents involving more than $500 damage, or resulting in the complete loss of a vessel.

Be prepared to provide the date, time and location of the accident; the name of the person who was injured, died or disappeared; the craft name and/or number; the name(s) and address(es) of the craft owner and operator.


A few simple precautions can help protect your PWC from theft.

  • Never leave the keys in the ignition.
  • Never leave your PWC unattended at docks or on beaches, no matter whether it’s or elsewhere.
  • If in a group on shore, chain your PWC to others. (Keep in mind that chaining personal water craft to others in the water can scratch the hulls.)
  • Permanently affix your Hull Identification Number (HIN) in a secret, unexposed location.
  • Record the number and keep it in a safe place. It may help to identify your watercraft if it is stolen.

If on a trailer:

  • Lock your PWC to the trailer.
  • Add a hitch lock so the trailer can’t be easily towed away.
  • Remove a trailer wheel and store it in your vehicle trunk.

Contact Us!

For further questions and assistance, please contact Oregon Trail Insurance at 541-296-2395 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


Content provided by: Safeco Insurance

Tags: boating accidents, boating safety, insurance coverage, safe boating, water safety, watercraft

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