MAN OVERBOARD >this is a drill<

Dave Hussey

Member III
I would like to ask opinions regarding the best techniques for getting a person safely back aboard a sailboat...

Years ago, my wife and I took a safety course in preparation for chartering a sailboat here in Seattle. There were about three couples and the instructor aboard if I recall correctly, on this overnight learning cruise. Everything was covered from navigation to cooking...and then out of the blue, the instructor tossed a life jacket in the water and yelled MAN OVERBOARD...everyone looked at the instructor in disbelief, shock, or dumbstruck ignorance and waited for him to say something...it seemed like a long and pregnant pause....until he spoke again and said "WELL???WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO? YOU JUST LOST A MAN!" and thus began a rigorous training exercise in saving a person who has fallen over the side....

DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO? a very sobering question.
 

CaptDan

Member III
MOB Drill

DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO? a very sobering question.
It sure is. That's why it's important to practice MOB drills periodically. And even then, should the unthinkable occur, rescuing a person who fell overboard is very difficult - particularly in adverse conditions.

Most sailing schools teach the Quick Stop and Quick Return techniques. USCG/Navy drills involve the 'Williamson Turn.' They all have some things in common, and a few that don't. The MAIN thing is to train your crew to know what to do, and the first thing is to keep a vigilant lookout on the victim, while marking the closest place of entry - with an MOB pole and tossing Type IV PDFs and/or life vests.

Here's what I do with folks who sail with me:

I carry a fender that I've named 'Ivan' (long story, don't ask.:rolleyes:). I go through the recovery steps with my crew: Then at some point of my choosing, without warning, Ivan gets tossed. This is what's supposed to happen:

1. Warning an MOB has occured, providing immediate clear indication of which side of the vessel the victim fell (port,strbrd,bow,stern).

2. The person who made the initial warning becomes the Lookout, keeping an unwavering eye on the victim's position, pointing, throwing cushions, PFDs, MOB pole towards that vicinity. Any other crew to aid the Lookout.

3. Helmsman - noting compass course - executes a tack initiating a reciprocal course towards the victim's position. Upon sighting the victim, he continues another 4 boat lengths past the victim then tacks upwind of victim, heading into irons, slowing the boat, (It helps to have doused the jib at this point.)

4. All hands on deck - recovery side - ready with gear (attached life ring, Lifesling, line lead to winch, boat hook), though in the case of 'Ivan,' all that's needed is the boathook.)

Sound easy? It's not. Worse, though it may look good once mastered, the Quick Return under sail may not help save a person's life. Why? Well..

1. In a lot of cases, victims strike their heads on something as they fall over board. They may not even be conscious when they hit the water.

2. Chaos is difficult to manage in the real world.

3. Retrieving a person - conscious or unconscious - is MUCH harder than picking a fender out of the drink with a boathook. Usually, it takes a couple of tries to get into recovery position.

That's why - if it were me - I wouldn't worry about looking good; my primary focus is recovering the victim. That means turning on the motor, and getting to that victim, upwind, and in recovery position IMMEDIATELY, dousing sail if possible. Every second wasted is one moment further towards dire outcome.

And that, my friends, is why I NEVER let people fall off my boat.;)

Just my thoughts. YMMV.

Capt Dan G>E35II "Kunu"
 
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msFootrope

Moderator
Moderator
Mob? Omg

Great question Dave! And great response Dan. I have to admit, although we've talked about it, we've never actually practiced it. What we have done is when we've lost a ball cap overboard, or passed by an interesting piece of flotsam or jetsam, we immediately drop sails, turn on the motor, and return to whatever it is we lost/saw, and then attempt to recover it and bring it aboard the boat. We've recovered hats, a dingy oar, and a fender or two, and even a nice floating cushion, but with one exception, Craig has always been driving the boat and I've been the one using the boat hook. Although we've discussed it often and practiced it a bit, I certainly hope that it's not Craig who requires rescuing! :eek:
 

rwthomas1

Sustaining Partner
My thinking leans towards taking every effort to keep people on the boat to start with. We sail with Mustang rigs on outside the bay and jacklines rigged if its anything other than sunny. The bottom line is I'm "oversized" and my wife is never going to get me back on board by herself if I was unconscious. Couple that with the fact that she simply isn't strong enough to do other tasks on the boat and I can justify anything to keep people onboard. The water temps are still in the low 50's here. Doesn't take long even at that temp to take you hypothermic.

RT
 

CaptDan

Member III
we immediately drop sails, turn on the motor, and return to whatever it is we lost/saw, and then attempt to recover it and bring it aboard the boat.

:eek:
That's a good start. ANY practice is better than none, IMO.

The only thing I'd add is, the elements of 'surprise and muster' are lacking.
In other words, it's one thing to return to a floating object at your leisure, quite another to do so when pressed out of necessity.

In one of my regular commercial captain's jobs, periodic MOB drills are conducted where participants 'play act' like chaotic passengers. A fender is tossed and - in one example - a female crew play acts like a mother whose child fell overboard. I'm talking screaming, out of control behavior - you know - like in the real world.:p The helmsperson/crew are then put in a position of trying to deal with the chaos while, at the same time, attempting to discover where the victim might be and getting there quickly. It's a very interesting excercise to say the least. ;)

Anyway, I'm with Rob: don't let anybody fall overboard in the first place.

Capt Dan G>E35II "Kunu"
 
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Emerald

Moderator
I've used the (blown off) hat overboard scenario as one of our practice methods. Part of what is good about this is you never know when someone's hat is going to blow off, or which direction, and the hat is often hard to spot and track due to its small size, and depending on material, it may be sinking, so your time is limited.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
I've used the (blown off) hat overboard scenario as one of our practice methods. Part of what is good about this is you never know when someone's hat is going to blow off, or which direction, and the hat is often hard to spot and track due to its small size, and depending on material, it may be sinking, so your time is limited.
We have successfully retrieved a Tilley hat. (And they can blow off, no matter what the ad sez.)
But then, no one abandons one of those, no matter what the sea condition. :cool:

Loren
 

sleather

Sustaining Member
I've used the (blown off) hat overboard scenario as one of our practice methods. Part of what is good about this is you never know when someone's hat is going to blow off, or which direction, and the hat is often hard to spot and track due to its small size, and depending on material, it may be sinking, so your time is limited.
That's been done a few times unintentially.......at night.......dark blue CG hat (that a freind gave me).......and solo. Hat was rescued in each situation. ;)
 

msFootrope

Moderator
Moderator
Mob

The only thing I'd add is, the elements of 'surprise and muster' are lacking.
We hate to lose our favorite sailing caps and the wind has often taken Craig's off his head unexpectedly. As one other person just mentioned, you never know when that's going to happen and they are hard to spot and sink rapidly. I consider this relatively good practice and we've only lost one or two in the process (and we've had to retrieve many a hat over the years). But we are also of the belief that it is better to stay aboard the boat.

Oh and one other thing - We always wear our life jackets, which will definitely improve our chances of rescue. Our life jackets also have the built-in harness and I have no qualms about hook a halyard to somebody to bring them back aboard.
 

Dave Hussey

Member III
OK, good responses!
I am somewhat disappointed there were so few however. :esad:

Our instructor taught us what I think is an excellent technique which brought us up to our 'victim' quite rapidly. By jibing the boat, and coming up to the victim on the leeward side, you are able to return to the MOB more quickly than making two tacks...I have practiced it several times (in good conditions, albeit) and sailing short handed, I prefer it over tacking...but in strong winds, or with more people in the cockpit, tacking sounds like the way to go (more people to tend to sheets, starting the engine, dropping the sails, etc.).

Rule number ONE: DO NOT fall overboard!
Rule number two: READ rule number ONE :egrin:
 

tooblaaave

Member I
Mob

Jibing in heavy seas can be a hairy experince, soI am told. My brother is an amazing sailor, coast guard and a lot of experience. He said Jibing is great in calm, even moderate sea. In heavy sea tacking is safer and gives more contol of the boat. I practice both. Nic
 

Randy Rutledge

Sustaining Member
Practice often - MOB

My best MOB practice session was sailing with a water-skier friend. Ken pointed out an object about 20 degrees off the starboard bow. I replied we won’t hit it then I decided to make a turn around the object that looked from a distance to be a throw able cushion.
I decided to circle it as in a MOB maneuver. The object was a painted one gallon milk jug with a 25 lb catfish on a six foot line. I spent the next 45 minutes maneuvering the boat alongside the jug just to have it go under the boat and reappear on the other side of the boat or 30 feet away in any direction. This was one of the most fun and challenging maneuvering events I have ever taken part in. I was totally surprised at how maneuverable Rumkin my E29 really was. I learned that by backing the jib and a full wheel to the direction the jib was driving the boat I could turn her almost in place or stall her where I wanted. I wish there was a way to recreate this without the harm to the fish (I released the fish that day after showing it to the guys at the dock so they wouldn’t think me crazy). I have even thought it would be a great competition to have at the sailing club, a jug-fish rodeo.
Many of the things I found to work well were not the standard s approach or any of the other standard MOB approaches. Up wind I would spin the boat with a wider than my normal 30 second delay turn I have used in race starts and stall in the wind right at the person.
100 feet of line on the stern rail secured by a highwayman’s hitch (a knot for securing a line to a rail that when released comes completely clear of the rail, also good for towing and can be released under load) can be thrown for the MOB to catch hold of and with the boat stalled or circling can be hauled in.
I have only seen one real life MOB, this was at Dauphin Island race Mobile Bay 2009. The lifeline broke and in the drink he went. The boat just did a simple turn and he was back onboard in 45 seconds. As per Capt Dan’s instructions all available hands were at the rail ready to hoist him aboard.
This tread needs to stay alive and active so all of us and our crew and guest can stay alive.
 

Sven

Seglare
Practical sailor has an article on recovery procedures in the January issue.

The article reminded me that we still don't have a Wichard emergency boarding ladder on board. With our freeboard that is a deficiency that needs to be corrected.


-Sven
 

Emerald

Moderator
I was just chatting with Glyn the other day regarding mounting steps on the rudder of my Independence 31 for emergency boarding (with an emphasis on solo sailing). The conversation went exactly as I anticipated - neat idea, but reality is it's about the worst place to try to board in any type of sea, plus the angle of our rudder on the transom gets pretty funky towards the top (leans aft which is the wrong direction for easy climbing). The solution I am pursuing that Glyn pointed out is a midships mounted ladder with a method of releasing it from the water. They can get pricey, but what's a life worth?
 
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Sven

Seglare
Hi David,

I was just chatting with Glyn the other day regarding mounting steps on the rudder of my Independence 31
...
The solution I am pursuing that Glyn pointed out is a midships mounted ladder with a method of releasing it from the water. They can get pricey, but what's a life worth?
First remember to hit the MOB button on the GPS before you fall overboard :egrin:

I've looked at Glyn's steps and I think he is right that you would have to be pretty agile to use them successfully. I suspect that adrenaline might help the agility along and his steps are certainly a lot better than nothing.

The Wichard ladder is the kind that you deploy from the water and while the list price seems to be $160 or so I've seen it for as little as $100 at http://www.landfallnavigation.com/swbl1.html .


-Sven
 

Emerald

Moderator
That Wichard ladder is neat and the price is certainly affordable. I'd been thinking of some of the nice folding, permanently mounted stainless ladders and had missed this product completely.

Has anyone climbed up one before? I know that things that are swinging and/or flexible can be more difficult than they look to climb up.
 

Randy Rutledge

Sustaining Member
life or death

David
Do you tow a length of line with a knot or small loop in the end to allow you to catch and stay with the boat or do you hope the boat will round up? A long line dragged from mid ship with loops tied with an overhand knot at 12” spacing from the rail to the waterline would increase the chances of getting back on the boat greatly, I would suggest the line from rail to waterline be ¾” while the wet portion should be no smaller than ½”. When boarding this way when you get to a stanchion grab it and swing up to allow a foot catch on the deck and bridge up this is easier than trying to continue to climb the rope ladder or loops.
This is making me think there needs to do more than just recovering “Ivan the fender” we need to practice hauling a person onboard and being hauled onboard and for the daring try hand over hand up the rope get aboard unassisted. Your friends onboard should get a laugh out of watching this.
An acquaintance slipped on the deck and fell overboard and had to climb a line while dragging in the water to get back on the boat one night at sea while his wife was sleeping.
I don't think many of us tow a safety line when solo.

We should.
 

ref_123

Member III
Another MOB approach

Years ago, our instructor taught us another approach that returns you to MOB place quickly and does not require adjusting sails. When a person or object falls overboard, you have to bear away to the broad/beam reach and then upon sailing for 6-8 seconds tack into the wind and heave-to. This allows you to drift to MOB position very slowly and retrieval is helped by a "slick spot" that the boat creates. The person needs to be hooked up quickly though as the boat still moves.

Works well on fenders and trowables. Never (Thanks God) tried it on a person. Lost a dummy head at night between Santa Barbara and Fry's harbor during the practice - damn strobe stopped working 10 seconds after it hit the water...

Regards,
Stan
 

Emerald

Moderator
Hi Randy,

I managed to have crew on all my sails this past season, so I haven't been pulling a tow line, yet. It's been on my mind that I need to rig one up. I'm sailing out of Annapolis and often wonder if it will be possible to keep a tow line deployed for much of the summer sailing due to the heavy boat volume - I've had problems trolling with people cutting across my stern and taking my fishing lines - have had to cut them as the reel has taken off at a zillion RPM - wonder what it would be like if one of these yahoos hit a tail of floating poly rope being towed behind. Any chance of being liable for damages if someone snagged a line being towed for self rescue - do you need to mark it?....

I agree that MOB practice would be best to do with a person in the water to pull out. My big dilemma is that even though I've had luck with gathering crew recently, I am often the only one on board who really has any clew about how to sail the boat. I've been wearing an auto-inflating harness/pfd at all times in case I go over and am watching everyone sail off into the sunset :esad:
 
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