Thursday, January 10, 2008


When you first discover that someone has fallen overboard, the most important thing to remember is DON'T PANIC! If the person is on a lifeline, stop the boat immediately and then recover them using the lifeline/harness as necessary. If you are well prepared and have practiced the drill regularly, you will automatically know how to react.
Immediately throw a lifebuoy and attachment overboard. Raise the alarm by shouting: " MAN OVERBOARD" (Even if you are the only one left aboard, shouting "man overboard" may provide reasurance to the person in the water).

Getting the person aboard can be difficult. If you have a platform or boarding ladder and the person in the water is able to help themselves, use it if it is safe to do so. If they are unconscious or exhausted, a form of lifting gear will need to be improvised. A short strap used in conjunction with a block and tackle rigged on the end of a halyard (sailing vessel) or attached to a suitable strong securing point on the wheel house (powerboat) would make it easier for a heavy casualty to be brought on board. A parbuckle can be improvised by using ropes, nets or a small sail, and then rolling the person out of the water. A dinghy provides another option for recovery, perhaps by partially deflating one section of the sponson tube to make it easier to get them on board. Prevention is better than cure. Ensure that all the actions and safety precautions to prevent a person overboard have been taken and practice drills regularly in all weathers and sea conditions - You could save someone's life.

If there are others on board, instruct a crew member to watch the person in the water and point continuously. Start your recovery manoeuvre. You may have to lower your sails and start you engine - beware of loose sheets fouling the propeller. If possible note your position - most GPS have a MOB. function - it may prove vital if contact is lost with the person in the water.

REMEMBER the MOB function records where the person fell overboard, he/she will drift away with the tide or current. If you are the only person remaining on board, do not leave the deck as you may become disorientated and loose sight of the person in the water. During the hours of darkness, a white parachute flare, which will pick up the retro reflective tape on clothing/lifejacket, can be used to illuminate area. If you cannot see the person in the water, or have any doubt about your ability to recover him/her, send a mayday call on your VHF radio.