When challenging a nasty inlet, make sure everyone dons a life jacket and knows to secure themselves for a run fraught with lumps, bumps and spray, Strum says. Brief everyone on what to do should catastrophe strike. Batten down any loose gear before making your run. Get all crewmembers on deck and, if possible, have them seated. They need to stay out of the cabin or other enclosure.
If you must remain in an enclosed space such as a pilothouse, wear an inflatable life jacket with a pull tab only — not one with an auto-inflation feature. This helps ensure your escape in the event of a capsizing. It is the same reason passenger-airline crews instruct you not to inflate your life jacket inside the plane. If water rushes into the cabin (be it airplane or boat), it will pin to the ceiling anyone wearing an inflated life jacket.
Ideally, all crewmembers should have a PLB (personal location beacon) attached to their life jackets. Also, be ready to deploy the EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) quickly, especially if it requires manual activation.
Radio the U.S. Coast Guard or harbor patrol ahead of time if you are experiencing engine problems or other issues that might impair your ability to safely return. Authorities might choose to stand by to lend assistance in the event of an emergency.