OCC Forums

Best Practices in Man Overboard Retrieval


By DariaBlackwell - 23 Jul 2015

There 's a very good article about short-handed response to MOB in YM. They tested a number of techniques and found one that would allow a small crew member to retrieve a much larger person.

Has anyone here had an MOB situation? What was your experience?

By DariaBlackwell - 5 Aug 2015

Cross reference of thread on MOB recovery. It appears the quick stop for short handed crew is an essential technique to practice. Basically, you immediately tack without releasing the jib which effectively causes the boat to heave to. You can then keep going through a jibe to point directly at the MOB without touching the sheets, making it a reasonable proposition for short-handed crew.

By DariaBlackwell - 5 Aug 2015

In 2014, a sailor fell overboard from Derry/Londonderry and was rescued in the Clipper Race.

There 's an excellent video of the recovery here:

The RNLI says 1 in 8 sailors report having fallen overboard, which I find extraordinary. Source: RNLI audience profiling research (2015). The RNLI commissioned independent research into the attitudes to safety and risk of UK yacht sailors. A total of 4,996 sailors responded to a survey run by the study team. When asked about their experience of safety incidents, 12% said that they had gone overboard while sailing a yacht.

From BoatUS, statistics about MOB help provide clues as to conditions under which going overboard results in fatality.

"Sobering MOB Facts

The BoatUS Foundation has created a snapshot of boating fatalities that occurred between 2003 and 2007, a five-year span that gives good insight on MOB accidents and how they happen, so that we can work to help lower those numbers. In that time-frame, 749 of the 3,133 total U.S. boating fatalities were MOB:

24% were characterized as "falls overboard."
24% died at night, and 76% died during the day.
82% were on a boat under 22 feet in length.
63% didn 't know how to swim.
Only 8% of the non-swimmers were wearing a life jacket.
90% of accidents occurred when water conditions were calm or had less than 1-foot chop.
Just 4% of the boats had two engines.
85% of fatalities were men.
Average age was 47.
During the day, alcohol played a part in 27% of the deaths.
At night, alcohol played a part in 50% of the deaths.
Falling overboard while fishing accounted for 41% of the deaths."
By Tonygooch - 6 Aug 2015

Hi Daria,

You asked about my MOB experience.

In 1997 my wife and I were sailing north to Buenos Aries from Staten Island. We were caught in a major southerly gale. We had lain a hull for the night to let the storm pass. In the morning the wind and waves had abated. I was on deck getting ready to set sail again. I was moving forward up the deck and had just detached my life harness tether to get past the boom bag that was secured to the rail. Without any warning I was thrown overboard by a rouge wave on the beam that turned the boat upside down. I came to the surface about 150 feet from the boat and looked back to see her like a stricken bird with her mast broken. I didn 't have to kick off my boots, they had been ripped off by the wave. I started to swim towards the boat, but in reality, I was making no progress as my wet weather gear weighed me down. Coryn struggled out of her bunk, and through the mess down below, including getting over the engine as the engine covers had come off. She saw me as a little yellow dot down wind and threw the life sling over board. The boat, stabilized by the broken mast acting as a drogue, drifted straight down the wind towards me. The life slink came to me and I grabbed it. Coryn pulled it in and I climbed the boarding ladder that is permanently mounted on the stern.

24 hours later we pulled the pins on all the rigging and started motoring to the coast 400 miles away. As a footnote, if I hadn 't detached my life harness tether to get around the boomvang I would have been trapped under the falling mast and drowned. Lucky!

Lessons learned:
Never lie a hull. We should have been lying to a series drogue that would have presented the stern to the wave.

Secure engine covers and floor boards and everything else down below against the off chance of a knock down.

For a boat sailing in high latitudes, have a mast and rigging that can survive a knockdown.

We were in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were 250 miles off shore but in shallow water that we later learnt is prone to very rough seas. We should have been either along the coast or 400 miles offshore in deep water.

On another note, when I later made a a solo non-stop circumnavigation I ran line bow to stern at water level along both sides of the boat. My thinking was that if I fell overboard forward of the mast my tether would get caught by the shrouds. I might be able to haul myself back on board, but if I couldn 't I would attach my life harness to this line using a short 12 " tether that I had permanently attached to my harness. I would then release my long tether from the life harness. The forward motion of the boat would sweep me back to the stern where I could climb back on board using the ladder or the wind vane. I never had to use this idea in practise. In fact, in 30 years and 160,000 miles of ocean sailing I have never fallen overboard. But then, I was lucky and I had a very good boat.