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Recovery of a Person overboard

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Yachtmaster Man Overboard JonIf you have ever done an RYA training course you will have learnt how to get back to a person in the water, otherwise known as the MOB or Man OverBoard. Now at the start of the season it’s a really good time to actually go and practice that manoeuvre, so it’s all fresh in the mind. It is also not a bad moment to show your regular crew as well, just in case it happens to be you no longer on the boat!

But what about actually getting someone out of the water, Could you?

Have you rehearsed in your mind what you would actually do on your boat? Does your boat need any special fitments to assist?

Could your partner get you out?

Talking all this through will allow the whole crew to learn the most crucial thing – If there is any doubt about “could you get them back onboard?” – CALL A MAYDAY!

If you are the closest help to a MOB then here are some techniques and tips that can really help. Some are boat specific, the list is not exhaustive but is there to provoke thought and discussion, its better to have considered and have solutions than be completely unprepared.

Ribs and other small craft where you are close to the water level, and it’s pretty apparent that you could get the person back in by dragging them over the side of the boat, then do so. They may not enjoy it, but it does work, however it’s pretty easy to hurt yourself and them doing it. So having got back to the person and with them alongside the boat, here are a few pointers:

  • Are they able to assist you in their recovery i.e. Face up, conscious and waving? Great, now talk to them to reassure them.
  • Got an outboard? Then you have a lift! Turn the engine off, then get them to make their way to the stern, now get them to stand on the Anti Cavitation plate and hold the engine, now press ‘up’ on the trim button. This will tip the engine up bringing your person with it. On many craft you can now step into the transom area.
  • No outboard? Then you will need to pull! A line with a loop in hung over the side really helps as step up.
  • Thought of carrying a clip on ladder? Now might be the time to buy one, again it really helps, try it out on a sunny day.
  • Hopefully they were wearing a lifejacket, this can help as well, so before you try to pull them in, warn them and then push downwards, this makes them bob back up like a cork, much higher in the water, it’s now easier to pull them in.
  • Larger people are a challenge, there is no getting away from it, you may really struggle to lift them in, so consider getting two lines tied to the boat and spaced roughly where their knees and chest are. Now get them to lie horizontally on the water’s surface, with the lines under them, now pull like mad and you may be able to parbuckle them up the side of the boat.
  • Most club’s safety boats have a mat-like device which is purpose designed for this very job, but it may not realistic to carry on a small boat.

Large motorboats provide a different set of challenges; the person will almost certainly be on the downwind side of the cockpit, now in addition to the points above our options are:

  • Secure a line onto their lifejacket the moment you get them alongside so you can’t lose contact.
  • If the vessel is low enough to the water you can drag the poor person up the side of the boat, but its easier said than done.
  • A looped line lowered from the stern cleat can make a good step for them to put a foot into allowing them to help by pushing down as you pull up.
  • The bathing platform seems to be the natural recovery position as it tends to be fairly low to the water and usually has a ladder, but take great care as in any seaway this could easily be moving up an down very close to their head.
  • The line you attached can be used to keep their head clear whilst you manoeuvre them to the bathing platform.
  • If you have a tender crane or passarelle, then they can make an ideal lift. However get a strop organised early, to clip to their lifejacket, before you really need it.
  • Would your boat benefit from a 3:1 pulley system, like a yacht mainsheet, to lift a person? Just slip one end on them, the other to the boat. It may need a high strong point to give a lift – the underside of the flybridge overhangs is often a great purchase point.
  • The bathing ladder is a great aid to getting people out, but many seize up from lack of use, get it out, lubricate it, then it will be available if you need it.

Remember – PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE! So with good seamanship and by communicating with your crew hopefully it won’t happen on your boat, but being prepared is a great idea!

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