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Getting back on Board

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  • #23739

    Hi All,

    Today I did the RYA Sea Survival course. An excellent practical course I thought by the way. I fired off two flares, used my own life jacket and had fun playing with a life raft.

    One question that I have never really considered if just sailing two up, what do people do to get a man overboard back on board ? What would you do with an unconscious person in the water ?

    Seems a big problem with the wheelhouse models where the stern is so high, and even the lowest point from the water is still a very long way to go.



    David Babsky

    We have a folded-up “rope” ladder at the stern with a short trailing lanyard. If someone falls over the side and is sufficiently conscious, and strong, they can tug the line and the ladder will unravel.
    I’ve fitted an engine-stop – can’t remember the make, sorry; Scandinavian, I think – which consists of a wireless receiver on board and a transmitter which I wear round my neck. I can’t start the engine till I’ve activated the receiver and battery-powered transmitter (the receiver is wired to the engine-stop solenoid). If I fall overboard (into water), or am more than 30′ from the boat, the receiver can’t pick up the transmitter’s weakened signal, so the on-board receiver stops the engine.
    Of course, this has no effect when SAILING.
    We haven’t yet worked out how one of us can retrieve the other of us if one of us falls off, especially if the one who falls off is unconscious. But we DO have a clip-on rigid boarding ladder which has fittings at the boarding sections on both side of the boat, courtesy of the previous owner, Dr Vic.

    victor crowhurst

    My system would be, press and hold the DSC mayday button. Sail/motor back to the casualty shortening foresail but leave enough to effect an HEAVE TOO on the windward side of them. Put the end of the Main Sheet through the reefing penant nearest the boom end and pull though as much slack as possible. Tying this end to your own life-jacket, get into the water and proceed to the unconcious casualty, untie the sheet end from you and tie to them with a bowline. Use sheet to get yourself back on board. Ease the jib to the opposite tack and let the boom swing leeward by releasing the sheet, grasp the sheet between winch and where it goes towards the reef pendant, 3 turns round winch and wind casualty up towards the boom end. Now stop the winch with the jaws. Manoeuvre casualty back on board by turning into wind and get them over the rail. Untie sheet from them, unjam winch, go back to Heave too and attend to casualty first then update your radio message.


    The biggest issue with anyone in the water is getting hold of them. That is why Lifesaver type floating ropes should be standard in all lifejackets – see They allow you to use a boat hook to get hold of the MOB. Then in a 2 person situation a 6 : 1 handy billy clipped onto the end of the Lifesaver can allow the person to be hauled out of the water using say a spinnaker halyard. Ideally all MOBs should only be hauled out in a horizontal position because blood flow to the legs can cause heart failure if they are vertical.

    David Babsky

    Thank you, Vic: that’s the most sensible method I’ve ever read: tie the rope to YOURSELF, then untie it from yourself and tie it onto the casualty. But I’ve also read elsewhere Stephen’s caution about not lifting a person vertically, and preferably wrapping them in a small sail (storm jib) and ROLLING them up the side of the boat horizontally.
    Silke did slip and fell astride a mooring line last summer, and she seemed like a deadweight to lift up and onto a pontoon: it took two people, at least, to lift her, so we’ve been thinking about this problem since then.
    (I’ve done MOB manoeuvres with a bucket in the water to simulate a MOB, but – of course – lifting a bucket out of the water and back on board is rather simpler than lifting an adult person.)

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