View Full Version : Man overboard
11-04-2004, 01:06 AM
I went out to my boat today with a mate who is in his late fifties and not as fit as he used to be.(Who of us is ?)
I rowed out to the mooring in choppy conditions and then decided to stay on the mooring and fish from there as there was a strong easterly blowing and I was feeling a little seedy from stomach ache that came and went and dealing with sails etc. seemed too much trouble.
The afternoon wore on and after having a couple of cups of coffee and catching only one fish worth keeping we decided to pack up and go home, all in all a pretty laidback afternoon.
My mate who is 6foot and quite a bit slipped as he stepped into the dinghy and when trying to get on an even keel again went over the side and into the water,swamping the dinghy in the process.
He was wearing jeans , a shirt and an old cloth jacket he keeps for fishing. I was still on the boat, my 34'trimaran.
He rose to the surface gasping and seemed to keep on gasping for a while and seemed pretty confused. I was afraid he was going to have a heart attack. I told him to ditch the jacket which he didnt want to do as his cellphone was in the pocket.
I shouted to him to hang on to the dinghy so we could get a rescue plan under way as the tide was running out. By now he was a bit more together, I then threw him a line and told him to make his way, while I paid out the line, to the stern of the main hull where there is a boarding ladder permanently attached to the hull but without an extension down into the water.
I had to tie a loop in a line and lower it to the correct depth for him to get enough purchase with his foot to get his very long legs up to the bottom rung of the ladder where I could lean over the stern and give him a heave aboard.
Once aboard he was fine and stripped off to dry out. I then hauled the swamped dinghy up to get most of the water out, climbed aboard and baled the rest out; Tidied things up and we headed home.
This whole small drama happened no more than a couple of hundred yards from the shore, albeit in choppy conditions which I think helped him lose his balance in the first place.
I shudder to think how I could have got him aboard in any sort of sea as he was pretty hopeless at doing much for himself. (heavy and unfit) On a trimaran such as mine I cannot use the boom as a crane because it doesnt reach over the side to any degree. The man overboard drills where we go about and pick up a lifejacket or fender get us back to where the person is in the water but dont deal with the reality of how difficult it is to get an adult aboard.
I am now thinking hard about a practical means of retreival and would be grateful for any suggestions.
In this case the stern ladder worked because the outboard that sits on a bracket there, wasnt fitted because we were on the mooring.
I urge others to actually try to get an adult aboard, It is incredibly difficult.
11-04-2004, 10:24 AM
Good post! Having practiced a plan is the first step in dealing with any emergency.
Here's a technique that was new to me a couple years ago:
My wife's son and his wife are both river-rafting guides. They practice a maneuver with their clients called the "Flop and Giggle," which is a way of heaving a heavier person back into a raft (admittedly easier than getting back into a larger boat).
The person in the water is maneuvered alongside the raft. The rescuer grabs the shoulder straps of the life jacket, and with or without assistance from the victim, first shoves the victim DOWN into the water, so that the buoyancy of the life jacket helps to propel the victim back up. At the same time, the rescuer heaves upward and pulls the victim up over the rail, and uses full body momentum to flop backwards into the boat, hopefully with the victim flopping and giggling on top of him/her. :D
There are volumes and volumes of anecdotes and procedures. But one thing I think is critical and not stressed enough is to immediately get something that floats out to the victim.
There's my $.02
11-04-2004, 10:25 AM
The loop in the line for a foothold is about the only thing I could think of myself. We carry a lifesling, which is supposed to be lifted by a tackle attached to the boom. Realistically, this doesn't work too well. Offshore, we usually carry an inflatable of some sort, and this offers an option of tossing it over and letting the MOB climb in first, before reboarding. To add to the problem, we have a lot of overhang at the stern, which is very dangerous to a man in the water.
Retrieval Strategies (http://www.boats.com/boat-articles/Safety-144/Retrieval+Strategies/2823.html)
11-04-2004, 11:01 AM
If I fall in the water, I'm toast. My crew, God bless them, love me, sure enough, but their effectiveness at getting me back aboard is not very reassuring.
I tell myself and my guests that if they go overboard while underway, grab the dinghy and heave themselves into it from the side, regardless of scrapes and bruises. And, if they can't do this, sink it.
If they pull the sides of the hard-chine plywood dinghy underwater they are better off than they were before: either the ketch stops from the increased drag, or the rope breaks and they're left with a swamped dinghy. Both results are much better than a solo head bobbing in the rapidly-increasing distance.
If there is substantial floatation built into the dinghy, the person will be able to get a large amount of his/her body out of the water (good thing), or perhaps slip back into the water, bail it out and try to enter again more neatly. Or if the floatation is low in the hull, the boat can be set up with self-bailing ports.
The key here is floatation. If your friend would have been able to slither into a dinghy that had substantial built-in floatation, he might've been able to climb back aboard the trimaran.
It's easier of course to do all this with an inflatable, but I can't bring myself to own one. I like sailing and rowing my "10-Spot" and my "Elegant Punt" too much.
11-04-2004, 11:09 AM
There is an inflatable MOB package that actually deploys a small inflatable dinghy along with a flag, horshoe, etc. This is the best system I've seen for a real-world situation. It also means the MOB can get out of the water to reduce hypothermia in cold water.
[ 11-04-2004, 11:34 AM: Message edited by: Dan McCosh ]
11-04-2004, 01:25 PM
On the schooner Red Witch becalmed on a hot summer's warm Lake Erie a swim was in ordser.
The captain's father couldn't climb the rope ladder to get back out. Much confusion ensued.
If several male adults hadn't dragged him aboard with a line around him - a good 6 or 7 feet from the water to over the bullworks - he might still be there. :rolleyes:
Scary stuff. :(
11-04-2004, 05:15 PM
this is something that I think about alot when sailing.
i often sail with myself and one other. I usually tow a dingy when doing this. i have decied that next year I will mount a holster for a knife right next to where the dingy's painter is tied to the boat, that way if somebody goes overboard I can just reach over and cut the line on the dingy.
the other thing is that we often sail with many young children on board. I do not like to were a life presurver, however I do like the west marine inflatable pruduct. I have altered myne so that it will only inflate once i pull the string, that way I can swim to a MOB and then pull the flotion string
11-04-2004, 05:34 PM
If I am sailing either alone or with people who would not be able to handle the boat without me on board I usually wear a harness and stay clipped in. Even with a dinghy being towed behind I would not want to count on being able to reach it let alone hang on for any length of time, even long enough to cut the painter.
11-04-2004, 06:04 PM
Thanks for your replies, MMD I will read those links in detail. I had been thinking along the lines of a scramble net.
[ 11-04-2004, 06:11 PM: Message edited by: Stiletto ]
11-04-2004, 06:10 PM
I bought a harness for sailing alone. I also made two rope ladders after I fell overboard while taking down the jib at the mooring. The one I'd made for this kind of occasion had too long a gap between the rungs so I made another one which had shorter distances and figured I'd use both if I went swimming again. I just hook them on the cleat when I get the dinghy up to the boat, then tie off the dinghy and then board. I stow them on the cleat while sailing in case I put a step amiss.
11-04-2004, 06:12 PM
Does your rope ladder have rope or solid rungs?
11-04-2004, 06:13 PM
I've certainly preached enough on other threads on this topic. I think the best reliable system on a tri - and a very good system on other boats - would be to have a cargo net handy. A top edge should be ready rigged to attache to lifeline stauncheons or whatever is good along the rail. The other edge might well have some modest weights to be sure it hangs down into the water and a goon line from each lower corner that can come back up on deck. Float your casualty next to the boat, get the pull lines outside the casualty, and then pull. the casualty will come up in a parbuckle made of the net. Even a weak person can do it but it never hurts to have a tackle or even a hallyard on the ends (spliced loops are good) of the lines from the lower end of the net.
There was a good WB article on how to make a suitable cargo net a few years back.
11-05-2004, 12:17 AM
A Galerider drogue is a better alternative to the cargo net IHO. Its primary use is to slow down a boat but can be very useful to gather up a crewmember that is unable to help themself. It may require so sort of lift or be used as a climbing net when along side.
11-07-2004, 08:38 AM
Stiletto - my rope ladder(s) have rope rungs.
11-07-2004, 09:09 AM
I sail by myself a lot and tie the end of the mainsheet around my ankle. This isn't the best idea, I think, but I don't have lifelines and nowhere else to clip in.
And when I do have guests aboard I remind them to the point of annyance that it's one hand for the boat and one hand for you. Of course, the only one who forgets that is me.
For when I'm sailing alone, I've thought about trailing a lifering behind the boat, say 15', so I could grab it (or try) as the boat sails by me. I read about a ocean voyager, can't remember who it was, who used to do this and jump off the bow, swim under the boat and grab the towed line. Sounds suicidal to me, but that's what gave me the idea of the "second chance" tow-line. I also like the idea of the knife by the dinghy, or in my case lifering, so it can be qick-released.
11-07-2004, 10:04 AM
I sure would not like the idea of being towed by my ankle if I fell overboard. If I were you I would add something to tie or clip onto. Depending on the size of your boat it can be as simple as a couple of eye bolts, one in the cockpit and one near the mast. The cockpit in my boat is long so I ran a cable from the front of the cockpit to the back, down in one corner, to clip into. For the record, even on a boat with lifelines, I don't think it's a good idea to use them as the anchor point for a safety harness.
11-07-2004, 02:37 PM
A drawback to the cargo net and rope ladders is that they are not designed to stand off from the hull and therefore are difficult to get a toe hold. I bought a rope ladder, designed for second story house evacuation, as it was longer than any offered by West Marine and every second step had standoffs. $60 value at Canadian Tire.
Another comment I want to make is that just because the lifeline stantions are perceived to be strong, one should not double up and use them as their tether anchor points. If you are thrown against the rail or stantion, its liable to break out and if its also the anchor point for the tether....bye-bye!
11-07-2004, 04:11 PM
For a singlehander there's probably n ot much taht will work except to stay onboard (eg harness) or flip the dinghy and pray the boat stops before the line breaks.
As an intellectual curiosity, I used to consider some sort of trailing rope with a weak link that, when broken, would stop the boat (through a sea anchor, line to tiller, etc). but that depends on grabbing the rope, of course, which is unlikely if you are in the slightest bit confused (which you will be) and the rope is less than very long. At which point the rope itself catches things, so...
I think the most important thing is to get a person in the water 1) floating (first priority) and 2) attached to the boat. At night or in rough seas i'd reverse those priorities; you can always at least hope to cough out water later if someone who gets ducked but if they're lost there's no trying at all.
A hard lifering throws well, takes a good pull, is visible, and floats. not that anyone really has them but they do work. I used a river-rafting type throw bag myself; it was only rope but I could get it pretty far and most people could grab it... Once you get someone close by throw them anything that'll float. if you got your buddy a type 1 preserver then--coat or not--he'd be ulikely to panic unless he really couldn't swim at all.
I've tried a webbing ladder and if the hull's got overhang then it's really hard to do. but to tell the truth, once you've got someone alongside you CAN get them aboard. it may not be dignified, they may have to sit and shiver for a few minutes, and they may get bruises--or even a broken arm if they're heavy and you're not strong. But you can do it.
11-07-2004, 05:18 PM
Ion, you are right re the stanchion strength, fortunately on my boat there is a perforated aluminium toerail well fastened to the boat which is great for tying off all sorts of things, so the cargo net/ropeladder could be securely clipped on there.(whichever side is appropriate).
Next time I'm on the boat I'll look at the best way of hoisting a person aboard, as my halyard winches are not really practical so I may have to organise a means of taking a line back to a sheetwinch.
Working through this process is proving helpful, I hope others do it too.
11-07-2004, 07:28 PM
Our last boat had relatively high sides and transom, and we had problems with ladders no matter how good they were, if a heavy "victim" (or a tired swimmer/child) needed help from a lightly built crew to get back on board. These considerations have resulted in the decision to make and mount a reasonably large boarding/swim platform on to the transom of our 24' lobster boat now a-building. If you mount an easily extended flip-down ladder on such a platform, you probably have as good a simple solution as can be achieved for most circumstances. This approach has the great merit that it is always ready in an emergency, and is useful anyway for boarding from a dinghy and for swimming.
11-08-2004, 08:30 AM
Remember that ladders only work if the casualty is conscious and strong enough to climb. It's amazing how quickly fear and hypothermia can sap even a strong person.
It may be that not everyone is familiar with the term 'parbuckle.' Originally for drawing heavy cylindtical objects up a verticle or a ramp, it's simply a line secure at the uphill end passing down and under the object and back up to the top. When you haul on the free end, you have a 2:1 purchase plus the advantage gained from rotating the object. Building a cabin near Mt Hood, OR, I set up parbuckles (with fleeted tackles) near each end of the 30'x3' doug fir logs and made moving those three or four ton bad boys something the two of us could do.
With a net, you float the casualty alongside, get the lower lines outboard of the body and start to haul. The person will roll a bit but will come up to the rain where you can tip him or her in by the chest.
Lacking a net but if you've a nice big genoa jib, lower the jib with plenty of bight and float them into the formed bunt. Use anything to keep the foot and leech around the casualty - another crew member, a few C clamps, vice grip pliars, or whatever - while you trim the sheet hard. This will ger your casualty up to arm's reach. From there, get the foot of the sail secure to the rail and then pull on the leech to parbuckle the casualty aboard.
I like to take a casualty over the lee rail while hove-to. If you're having trouble, then you can ease the helm a tad more amidships to cause the boat to fall off. With the clmaped down main, she'll heel nicely, putting the rail under, and you can float the casualty aboard.
I single-hand a lot. I used to tow a bit of yellow floating line with a loop at the end to give me a fighting chance to grab it. I've not used self-steering gear much but I've gotten all my boats to sail themselves with good balance and a couple of beckets to lash the helm. I had the over-board line looped around the becket to the tiller or wheel so if it took a good tug, it would caste off the becket and free the helm, thus letting the boat round up. Grana will sail a long long ways even with a free helm. I've not come up with a system that will make Grana just round up and think of stopping and it's really hard to even hold on to a line much less pull upstream against say six knots so I concentrate on staying aboard.
If you're going to use a line, practice is good. Have a pal sail the boat while you hop over and try to hang on. Regular elastic waist swim trunks will strip off, so wear something with a real belt or go naked. I've found that I can hang on and be towed at speed if I can get the notch between my big toe and next toe around the line and against a knot and rotate supine with a little arch to my back. That gets the body up on a semi-plane and your head's bow wave won't drown you the way it does if you try to tow belly down.
I much admired a local widow with a very large brood who'd sail off in her Wianno loaded to the gills the grandchildren and golden retrievers. Too full a boat to work the sheets and running backs in a tack, so at the command "ready about" there'd be a half dozen splashes as superfluous kids and canines were jettisoned forward over the weather rail, to be picked up aft over the new lee rail. They had lots of overboard practice.
Get wet. Be happy.
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