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How to respond to person overboard

Most of us don’t want to consider the unthinkable while out sailing or cruising on the open waters, but accidents do happen and being prepared for emergencies, such as a person overboard, is essential to mariner safety.

man overboard 1.jpgAccording to the U.S. Sailing organization, “man overboard” is the third most nautical hail after “Land Ho!” and “Thar She Blows,” but it is clearly the most life-threatening.

Falling overboard can happen as a result of someone slipping or due to adverse weather conditions. The most important thing for people to keep in mind is to remain calm. Precious seconds and minutes matter so level heads must prevail.

Experts say there are three key elements/actions to keep in mind when faced with such an emergency:

  1. The initial reaction from those on board play a huge role in the successful retrieval of someone overboard.
  2. Managing to turn the boat around safely to get to the victim
  3. Approaching and recovering the victim.

man overboard 2.jpgThe U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and other associations and groups dedicated to marine safety recommend mariners practice and prepare man overboard drills. Here are some tips culled from these associations and groups:

  1. First and foremost, never jump in to rescue the person overboard. The attempted rescuer could easily find himself or herself in distress, or could be easily pulled under by a panicked overboard victim.
  2. Shout “man overboard” to alert the crew.
  3. Press the man overboard button on your GPS
  4. Grab man overboard equipment and through it to victim. These include crew overboard rescue device, the MOM 8A rescue horseshoe, and the MOM 8S soft pack.
  5. Ignite smoke flares
  6. Make sure one crew member is assigned to keep track of victim and communicate with victim.
  7. Send a DSC distress alert and a MayDay call.
  8. Don’t lose sight of the victim
  9. The captain should bring the boat alongside the person overboard, with the bot pointing into the wind and the propeller stopped.
  10. Keep the victim calm.
  11. If you are unable to get the victim on board before the Coast Guard arrives, once the Coast Guard does arrive stay out of the way and let the experts complete the rescue mission.
  12. Always have a marine radio. Never rely on a cell phone due to potential spotty service.

It is critical that passengers on your boat also know the safety drill. Experts urge crew members to go over safety with passengers before setting out for a sail or cruise on the water. Make sure passengers know where safety equipment is and also show them how to operate a marine radio and how to call the Coast Guard in the event of an emergency.


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