Handling Man Overboard situations, how did you go?

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by Corley, Dec 1, 2011.

  1. Corley
    Joined: Oct 2009
    Posts: 3,777
    Likes: 194, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 826
    Location: Melbourne, Australia

    Corley epoxy coated

    I just recently had the new experience of having to rescue a fellow competitor while crewing on a sailing multihull during a race (F24 trimaran). It was a lesson in preparedeness or lack thereof. The conditions were fairly windy 20 probably touching on 30 knots at time. The wind came up quite quickly so there was not much of a sea state running just a little chop. It poured down upon us for about half an hour before the race and continued for the duration. We made a clean start which was nearly directly downwind. We noticed nearly immediately the TT720 trimaran behind us struggling with setting their spinnaker.

    Soon we received a M.O.B. call. This set off a chain reaction of events on our boat that exposed one of our crew members really wasn't up to taking decisive and fast action in a crisis. While he was flummoxed the skipper myself and another crew member (who nearly was pulled overboard themselves) struggled with controlling the kite and attempting a drop finally I pulled the jib up its halyard and managed to collapse the spinnaker and the skipper released the spin halyard so we could drag it in (the tack line had still not been released by our unresponsive crewmember).

    Meanwhile on the other boat they had attempted to start their outboard and failed (they had a spinnaker sheet fall overboard and foul the prop) and had managed to keep their lost crewmember in visual contact. This created more problems for us in maneuvering as they were not keeping good control of their boat we nearly suffered a collision with them. While we were maneuvering our skipper became a bit overwhelmed and we suffered a gybe with all standing he got hit in the head with the boom only a glancing hit luckily no major damage to his head from the impact. We finally managed to get visual contact of the M.O.B. she was conscious and uninjured which was good but had not pulled her tab to activater her lifejacket which made her really hard to see.

    Finally our skipper managed to start our outboard and we were able to position the M.O.B. near the leeward float and drag them aboard. I was glad they were not too heavy it took quite a bit of effort to bring a light female onboard if they had been a really heavy male I'd envision having to take a line round a winch to get them onboard. I've seen some references where they recommend putting a jib overboard and pulling the M.O.B. up in a bight of the sail I guess thats ok if you have spare sails lying around but most of the time they are on furlers and the time taken to unhank a jib and get it overboard probably isnt worth it. We then commenced a slow windward motorsail beat back to the club.

    The things I took from the experience.

    a) Have an easily accessible floatation cushion with a line attached for easy retrieval if we had one easily accessible we could have spared our M.O.B. ten minutes in the water. Our skipper should have had one but didnt have it easily accessible.

    b) Be seamanlike and look to properly controlling and tidy up your boat first two of our crewmembers could have potentially suffered serious injury. I think our skipper went away from the event with a much better understanding of what was required and why.

    c) If your the M.O.B. pull your bouyancy vest or lifejacket so the rescuers can see you and make the initial approach safely it will save you time in the water and your rescuers a lot of angst.

    d) Have proper blankets and towels onboard to help the M.O.B. dry out and keep warm.

    I'm not critical of our skipper he simply fell into the complacency that effects everyone who sails it was a good wake up call for everyone on board. We were lucky that the event played out in conditions that were not too extreme. I'd be interested to hear of other people's experiences and how they coped in similar situations.
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2011
    1 person likes this.
  2. CatBuilder

    CatBuilder Previous Member

    I've been lucky enough to never have to put the skills to the test, but what they teach us in courses to get your merchant mariner credential here is the following:

    These are the turns you can make at the helm:


    Sailing response

    If you are motoring


    Throw everything that floats overboard the second the MOB goes over (coolers, ice boxes, MOB pole, throwable PFD, seat cushions, regular PFD, lighted beacon at night, kayak, anything and everything! This helps in two ways:

    1) Helps the MOB with extra flotation so they have more to use
    2) More importantly, you can see all that crap floating in the water from very far away compared to a human head. It is losing sight of the MOB that often makes it deadly. You must mark the spot they went over so you can return to it, even if it takes a while to execute the MOB maneuver.

    To reheat possibly hypothermic people, you get them naked, you get naked and you jump into a sleeping bag or under some blankets. Not fun, but it works. Also a space blanket is a good thing to have in your emergency medical kit.
  3. SamSam
    Joined: Feb 2005
    Posts: 3,900
    Likes: 199, Points: 63, Legacy Rep: 971
    Location: Coastal Georgia

    SamSam Senior Member

    We had a guy go overboard voluntarily for repairs and had a situation where we couldn't get him back aboard. He was a big boy, a little bigger than the average American lard *** but not unusual. The problem was you couldn't grab hold and hoist him in as there was nothing small to get a grip on. It's like trying to pull a 250 lb greased watermelon out of the water.

    The guy was fully conscious and helping all he could and there were enough other guys to help, but you are pretty much limited to two helpers. It was a small 23' boat, but no ladder, which isn't unusual in a boat that size. As it was we towed him to shore to where he could get back in, but if we had been offshore, or if he had been unconscious, there would have been major problems.

    What are the techniques and logistics to getting fat or big people back aboard?
  4. CatBuilder

    CatBuilder Previous Member

  5. michael pierzga
    Joined: Dec 2008
    Posts: 4,862
    Likes: 115, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 1180
    Location: spain

    michael pierzga Senior Member

    Yah..the life sling is standard operating procedure. CRASH STOP is the manauver...stop the boat...minimize distance to the man in the water.

    To pick up a man in the water You tow the sling behind the boat like a ski rope, circle around, then The man in the water grabs on..you haul in.

    Its best to practice with a real live man in the water when the weather is fine so that you and your crew learn the best hoist points for hauling onboard.

    Dragging the man in the water up the reverse transom with a genoa winch while the boat maintains bare steerage speed forward, works best for me.
  6. Stumble
    Joined: Oct 2008
    Posts: 1,913
    Likes: 73, Points: 48, Legacy Rep: 739
    Location: New Orleans

    Stumble Senior Member


    It really depends, but every boat should have at a minimum a boarding ladder of some sort. In its absence you can make an impromptu one out of a leingth of line with bolens tied into it as foot rests and hand holds. On a sailboat, running a halyard to the MOB can help retrieval, and on outboards using the engine cavitation plates also can work.

    The real trick is to get something the MOB can stand on to lift them partially out of the water and get them close enough to the deck you can grab onto them.
  7. Boston

    Boston Previous Member

    Hmmm, well I've never had the privilege of rescuing anyone out of any really dangerous situations, but I remember one day my brother threw me overboard. Not the first time either, cause ole pops was pretty pissed. As the boat came around I couldn't help but crack a smile cause he had my brother by the throat and was staring out at me in the water. At the time it never occurred to me that only left one hand for me. I'm sure he was aiming for my belt loop, it was kinda standard procedure, but he grabbed something else instead. My brother was turning blue, My grand dad was laughing his *** off and I was hanging onto my jewels. Pretty sure my dad was having a good time with it. I think he'd had about enough of me and my brother.
  8. cthippo
    Joined: Sep 2010
    Posts: 813
    Likes: 52, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 465
    Location: Bellingham WA

    cthippo Senior Member

    Another vote here for the lifesling. The trick (as I understand it) is to get the MOB in it, and then use your sheet winch and an elevated block to hoist them in. A boarding ladder is good, but it assumes the MOB can still climb a ladder after some time in the water. With the lifesling and a rescue swimmer even an unconcious MOB can be recovered.
  9. michael pierzga
    Joined: Dec 2008
    Posts: 4,862
    Likes: 115, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 1180
    Location: spain

    michael pierzga Senior Member

    One maneuver to practice is sending a crew overboard to rescue...get the man in the water... into the life sling.

    A few years ago I had a crew swept off the foredeck at sea. It took us nearly an hour to get back on him. By that time he was hypodermic and in shock. A jellyfish. We had to send a tethered crew over to get him.

    Important to learn the lessons from a man overboard ..why did he go overboard ? Is your boat poorly laid out ? was the maneuver Ill prepared ? How do you keep it from happening again...
  10. rxcomposite
    Joined: Jan 2005
    Posts: 2,532
    Likes: 466, Points: 83, Legacy Rep: 1110
    Location: Philippines

    rxcomposite Senior Member

    Does that includes the fat wife?:p
    1 person likes this.
  11. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
    Posts: 15,770
    Likes: 1,197, Points: 123, Legacy Rep: 2031
    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    If you have an engine, someone should've started it immediately. Communicating with the boat that lost the crew member and coordinating the maneuver is also a good idea. I've done a few rescues, still do, and it happens that the rescue boat becomes another boat to be rescued. Getting a propeller tangled in lines dragged by the boat to be rescued can be a problem. However, most important than all is to have a plan beforehand and to practice MOB maneuvers.
  12. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member


    What you had was a forced drill. The best way to prepare for emergencies is to practice for them. Not many recreational boaters do and not all commercial boaters do either.

    I'm glad it all worked out but it's a shame nobody got naked with her in a sleeping bag to avoid hypothermia!

    Par-buckling is the technique you referred to. It is brilliant and should be practiced.

    Her PFD should have been a hydrostatic automatic. Good ones (yes, they're expensive) provide over double the buoyancy of a regular PFD, keep face up when unconscious, have accessible whistles, an automatic strobe and excellent reflectivity. If she had suffered cold water shock or hit her head and was unconscious, she may well have been dead by the time she was recovered (unless she sank and couldn't be recovered). Visual contact should NEVER be lost with a MOB. A crew member must immediately volunteer or be appointed to that sole duty.

    A sheet in the prop is hugely common. I am surprised no one ran out of fuel, another frequent event.

    I'm glad you learned a lot at minimal "cost". Lets hope we all take a lesson from your experience and practice for mishaps at sea.

    Thanks for posting.

  13. Boston

    Boston Previous Member

    so what is the best PFD, or at least what divides the good from the bad.

    any links
  14. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member

    I don't know them all Boston but most are good. It's the hydrostatic trigger that's the important part, and it's expensive. But, what's a life worth?

    Mustang makes a good one and if it's good enough for Prince William and Kate (front page of Maclean's magazine a few months ago - nice product placement 'eh!) then it should be okay.

    It's what I own. West marine makes a less expensive one that is USCG approved for you yanks but if you wear one up here you must also carry a standard key-hole vest on-board to cover your butt as the WM one is not Canadian approved.


  15. Submarine Tom

    Submarine Tom Previous Member

    Oops, I misted a great response opportunity.

    The best PFD is the one you wear!!

Similar Threads
  1. Squidly-Diddly
  2. Tharayman
  3. Outwith Jack
  4. fallguy
  5. rwatson
  6. Todd Hartman
  7. Squidly-Diddly
  8. Squidly-Diddly
  9. robertknowlden
  10. daiquiri
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.