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Recovering a man overboard

man overboard 1.jpg“Man overboard” is one of the last things you want to hear when you’re out on the water; but when it does happen the ability to act, rather than freeze on the spot, could be the difference between life and death for the person-in-water.

The response to the situation will vary depending on the size of your boat and the number of crew but there are a number of common steps that can be taken to attempt a safe recovery.

  1. Yell “Man Overboard” to alert the crew of the situation.
  2. Provide the victim with any additional flotation. Ideally, they will already be wearing a life vest but additional flotation like an underarm flotation device increases a person’s odds of surviving until the boat returns. The MOM 8-A and 8-S, in addition to the underarm flotation device, also contain a 6 ft. plyon with a water-activated light for better visibility. Tethered to the MOM 8-A and 8-Sis a 16" diameter, ballasted, self-opening Sea Anchor to reduce downwind drift keeping the victim in the same position as when they went overboard.
  3. The first person that spots the person-in-water must maintain focus on the victim and call out that position to the helmsperson. If applicable, press the Man Overboard button on your GPS.
  4. While this again is determined based on your current situation, it’s important to decided if there’s a need to call a “Mayday.” If there isn’t a need to call “Mayday” someone should call “Pan Pan” alerting your ship has an urgent but not immediate life-threatening situation.
  5. Turn your boat around and circle back to the person-in-water. How you choose to do this is based on your boat’s size. Some common methods are:
    1. Quick Stop
    2. Williamson Turn
    3. Anderson Turn
    4. Scharnow Turn
    5. Figure 8 Technique
  6. Find the victim and approach cautiously at a controllable speed.
  7. Prepare a throwing line for the victim so they can be pulled alongside the boat.
  8. Getting the victim out of the water again depends on a number of situations. If you have a ladder and the victim can climb, that is the easiest solution. If the victim can’t climb or you don’t have access to a ladder, the MOM 8-A and 8-S can attach to a halyard to be hoisted aboard.

man overboard 2.jpgWhile these are eight simple steps, in each step there are a number of decisions that need to be made that could delay the recovery of the person-in-water. Practicing man overboard drills is the best way to prepare your crew for the situation and also provides an opportunity to test the various stopping techniques to determine which is the right one for your ship. As captain, it is important to practice man overboard drills regularly. As they say, practice makes perfect and only that repetitive practice will give your crew the confidence to successfully recover a man overboard when the situation arises.


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