RYA Yachtmaster™ man overboard drill.
Ultimately the reason we go boating is to have fun; enjoying the freedom and exhilaration that getting out on the water provides is always the bottom line.
As with any sport, however, sailing is not without its risks. It doesn’t pay to dwell too much on these things otherwise, frankly, you’d never get out of bed. Once in a while though, it pays to be prepared.
And this brings us on to man overboard: It’s not really a subject you want to ponder as you step aboard your boat for a day’s sailing. On the other hand, in the highly unlikely event of finding yourself in the water with your boat sailing away, it would be nice to think your crew could rescue you.
It’s also good to know that if one of your crew fell overboard you would know what to do: you need a plan, and one man who knows a thing or two about safety at sea is Keith Colwell.
Brief Your Crew
Sailing isn’t a hugely dangerous sport, and you don’t want to scare your crew, but it pays to discuss Man Overboard. If you have a regular drill in place, then you could buy yourself valuable time should the unthinkable ever happen.
This is the accepted RYA Yachtmaster™ crew drill in the event of a Man Overboard:
Man Overboard Manoeuvres
So that’s the crew briefed, now comes the tricky bit: actually pulling off the manoeuvre. A good method of practicing is by throwing a fender overboard weighted down with a bucket or a coil of rope. Just make sure the crew don’t lose sight of the fender!
If you’ve got a motor, and it works, you’re going to want to use it in an emergency, so let’s deal with that scenario first:
Now comes the really tricky bit! There’s a definite art to coaxing your boat gently into the breeze and coming to a standstill alongside your target. Getting it right is a great feeling.
Even if you weren’t concerned about safety, it’s a trick that’s well worth mastering and the fact is that a man overboard situation is EXACTLY the time when your motor will decide not to start, so it’s in your interests to get this one nailed down.
On a close reach you can spill and fill your mainsail to control your speed
Man Overboard Recovery
The final sticking point is recovery: if your boat has any kind of freeboard at all, you’ll soon realise that trying to get them out of the water is not as simple as it looks.
If your boat has a bathing platform on the transom, then you might be able to get them back aboard via the ladder. It is worth bearing in mind that in rough conditions this will be a dangerous place to attempt to recover a MOB, as there is a risk of being drawn under the stern.
This is set on the side of the boat with the foot attached to the gunwale. The head is attached either to a handybilly (block and tackle) or straight to the halyard.
MOB Recovery Raft
These are purpose built for the job. Again, you could use the halyard or, if your boat doesn’t have a solid kicker, the boom and mainsheet.
“So there you have it” Keith said: “You’ve got to hope it never happens to you, but the key thing is simply to be prepared and then you can go out on the water with confidence and enjoy yourself.”
Excerpts taken from Keith Colwell’s RYA Sea Survival Handbook. To find out more about safety at sea, you can pick up a copy by going to the RYA Web shop at: www.rya.org.uk or by calling 02380604132.
You can also pick up a copy from any good marine retailer. Prices are available on request.