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Suddenly in Command: Man Overboard

This article was published in Fall 2015 Nor’Easter for TONE (Tartan Owners Northeast). Inc.

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SUDDENLY IN COMMAND: Man Overboard

by Robin G. Coles

Let me first start out by thanking everyone for taking my survey.  The results were overwhelming.  So much so that I feel I need to do more research to accommodate you.  Therefore, this article is about Man Overboard (MOB). I’ll end the series by taking you home with your engines running.

With that said, MOB is a situation where someone has fallen overboard (off the boat) and now needs help getting back onto the boat. First thing someone needs to immediately yell “Man Overboard”.  If there is someone else on the boat besides you have them locate the person who fell over and keep pointing at him/her until rescued. Also throw a flotation device to the person to help them either grab it or as a second marker.  Also if there is a MOB button on your GPS push that and if your radio has DSC hit that one.

Next, there’s two schools of thought as to whether you should do a rescue under sail or power.  The only concern with being under power is getting to close.  The propeller could do some serious damage if it comes in contact with the MOB.  The lines could also wrap around the propeller.

If strictly under sail the best approach for someone with less sailing skills is to immediately tack the bow of the boat through the wind.  Don’t touch the sails; you don’t want too much speed causing you to pass the MOB.

Check the boat for life sling, MOB buttons on GPS, red DSC on radio, and square flotation device.  Whether you have a life sling on your boat or not, it’s a good idea to take a workshop and learn/practice how to use it.  As for MOB drills, if you plan on sailing often go out and practice MOB drills with a flotation device in the water.  Then practice some type of rescue, under sail and with the engine on.

In either case, using the engine – take the engine out of gear as you approach the MOB then shut it off during the actual recovery.  This helps reduce fumes, noise and allows people to concentrate on the rescue.

A fairly new maneuver is to put the boat onto a deep beam reach (approximately 110 degrees off bow) immediately after the accident.  Sail a few boat lengths downwind and to one side.  This turns the boat around and helps you approach the MOB with better maneuverability.

Robin is a published author, passionate marine enthusiast and sailor who has interviewed countless industry experts as well as visited, interviewed personnel at, written about, and photographed hundreds of marine ports in the US and abroad. Robin also works with businesses to help them tell their stories. Articles, customer success stories, and videos are just a few ways she helps her clients. Her current projects include videos about Boat Safety. If you’d like to get involved in these, contact Robin at robin @ TheNauticalLifestyle.com.

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