Sailing Tactics Revealed: Person Overboard! by Linda
Person Overboard! Sailing Rescue Techniques
Most one man-overboard drills usually consist of throwing
over a cushion and returning to pick it up by the strap. A
good sized fireplace log is a better way to do the practice
because it is much more awkward to get aboard. There are four
important steps to retrieving a person who has gone overboard.
The first is to return without delay to a position near the
victim. The second is to maneuver your boat close enough so
you connect him or her to the boat. The third is to get the
person aboard, and the fourth is to see that they are ok.
The moment someone goes over the side, a boat cushion or life
preserver should be tossed to him/her. Make sure to keep him/her
in sight, and as the distance widens, it is increasingly important
to maintain visual contact. Even when you are alone on the
boat, keeping the victim in sight is second only to getting
the boat back to him. Everything becomes more practical as
you get in closer proximity to the person in the water. Here
are three methods of rescue.
Method One...This method involves jibing to rescue the person
over board. Only do this in light winds to avoid capsizing.
Remember to stay in constant communication with the victim.
1.When a person falls overboard, immediately yell "Crew
Overboard!" 2.Next, throw a flotation device toward the
victim and keep a close eye on them.3.Jibe the boat. 4.Now
quickly head up to a close-hauled course. 5.Retrieve the person
on the windward side of the boat. Let the mainsail out to
Method Two... If the wind is too strong to jibe the boat,
then tacking in a figure eight is a good way to go. Remember
to stay in constant communication with the victim. 1.When
a person falls overboard, immediately yell "Crew Overboard!"
2.Head on a broad reach for about 15 to 20 seconds. Keep your
eyes on the victim.3. Then come about and head up. 4.Go beyond
the victim and come about again, proceeding on a broad reach.
5.Head up to the leeward side of the person and let the mainsail
Method Three...The Quick Stop maneuver is a new, widely recommended
method that calls for the boat to go head-to-wind as soon
as a person goes in the water. The jib is backed to further
reduce speed while the continues turning until the wind is
abaft the beam. The course is stabilized on a beam- to broad-reach
for two or three boatlengths, then altered to nearly dead
downwind. If the wind is light, you can tack immediately after
the person falls overboard and leave the jib cleated. Remember
to stay in constant communication with the victim. 1. First,immediately
yell "Person Overboard!" and toss them a flotation
device.2. Keeping an eye on the victim, immediately come about
and backwind the jib by leaving it cleated. 3. Let the mainsail
out so that it luffs and drifts towards the victim. 4.Let
the mainsail all the way out and uncleat the jib. All these
methods are good and each will benefit from practice. Most
practice sessions are held in calm water onclear days, which
is rarely the condition in which a man-overboard emergency
will occur, so think about handling the situation in a storm,
or at night, or in fog. The wise sailor reviews his plans
for handling man-overboard scenarios every time he goes aboard
a boat. He applies his plan to the conditions prevailing whenever
he goes on deck. When a crew member goes in the water there
should be no delay in starting the best retrieval method.
Many safety authorities believe that the victim should be
picked up on the windward side, but I believe that with a
sailboat the leeward side is likely to be both lower and more
sheltered, with the boom readily available as a mounting for
the hoisting block. As the boat drifts to leeward it will
drift away from a victim who is to weather, but will remain
close to the victim to leeward. Watch out, though, to make
sure that the boat bouncing in a seaway does not slam down
on top of the swimmer. Resist the temptation to have someone
go in the water to help the victim - you may lose two people.
If the person in the water is unable to help himself you then
may have to send a spare person into the water to help. In
this case make surethere is a line securely attaching the
boat and the would-be rescuer. Plan ahead how you are going
to get this person back aboard. Of course the more you know
about how your boat behaves under differing circumstances,
the better will be your performance in any emergency. Picking
up a mooring under sail, particularly in winds over 30 knots,
teaches you a lot that you can use to save a friend's life.
At all times handle your sails at racing speed. Whenever you
can, practice and think about what you are going to do in
a man-overboard situation. The seconds you save may be important
in an emergency.
About the Author
Linda Cullum is from Cape Cod, MA, with a second home in
Vermont. She is the author of Learn to Sail! with Multimedia!
an Interactive Sailing training CDROM which teaches all aspects
of Sailing including Knots, Piloting, Rules of the Road, Weather
with digital video from Sail Magazine, narration, animation
and quizzes. Visit her site at http://learntosail.net