Real Life Person Overboard Experiences vs. Drills

nolatom

Super Anarchist
3,522
558
New Orleans
Not to sound smug, but yes very lucky, to have never had anyone fall overboard from "my" boat, though a couple of close calls.

I have been a position to recover overboards from some other craft.  And no you don't expect it.  And did it go by the book?  Not completely, but good enough.

Teaching sailing in Flying Scots, several other Scots doing same.  I noticed one of them far away was sitting, luffing, going nowhere, for a good while.  Headed over towards them and oops it was the instructor who'd fallen overboard, fortunately the boat stayed close, the students were waving at us as we got closer.  Told my students how we'll maneuver, so stand by.   I didn't ask him how he fell overboard til later.  No one was wearing lifejackets on a warm summer evening, on either boat (just shoot me okay, that's how we did it back then, in good weather and warm water).

So we got him on board, but yes, wet swimmers weigh MUCH more than you think they will.  He then went back aboard and finished (I guess) the lesson.

Another time, cold sunny March day, brisk cool front so about 15-20 knots-plus.  Almost no one else out on the lake (Pontchartrain), students were a nice couple with young kid from out of town who arrived late because of interstate traffic, so we got out late, and I had an afternoon lesson that I would be late for.  Grumble Grumble, let's skip the overboard drill to save time?   But wind softened a bit, so we did it, then headed for home a couple miles away, damn, we're late.  

Then kid cried out, "what's that?"  Way up to windward was a swimmer calling for help.  We tacked our way up and it took a while, but we got him on board, pretty much "like the drill".  Out of breath, first thing he said was "two more, two more"!  There had been three of them, on a jetski that bounced them all off, going too fast into that chop.  More windward work, and we got one, and the only other boat out there saw us luffing forever, came over, and got the third one. 

We went way downwind and found the jetski, put them back aboard, with a promise from them to to "slowly!" go upwind to the boat launch several miles away.

What if we hadn't been there?  Cold water, and 15 miles to the lee shore.  So who knows.  But the overboard drill we'd just done, really helped, my crew had confidence.

But, what if we'd been "on time" and passed through there an hour earlier?   They were wearing lifejackets, thank God (literally).  So who knows.  But right time, right place, freshly practiced, i think it was a Higher Power thing. 

 

12 metre

Super Anarchist
3,785
636
English Bay
Person overboard drills are really important, but has anybody else found that the real thing is never quite like the drill?
Yes.

I wasn't there but there was that tragic MOB at PNW Race week barely 6 months ago.  I hope this doesn't open up old wounds for some people here, but it is relevant to this thread.

There was a thread on here about it with a fair amount of debate which I won't get into: 



A subsequent article in 48 Deg North gave a first hand account of what took place and you can see the crew did just about everything possible, but it was far from a text book MOB.

Here is the 48 Deg North link: https://48north.com/magazine/  

It is free so just scroll to the bottom and click on the Aug 2021 issue and scroll to page 44.  Definitely worth reading.

 

Great Red Shark

Super Anarchist
8,367
572
Honolulu
When we spied Rick McDonald in the middle of the Molokai channel after diverting to the flailing boat that he'd come from pointed him out to us,  our driver (the Late, great Butch 'the Toxic Avenger' Parker) went to him like a Laser beam in the rolling 4-footers and about 3 lengths out said,

"So,  we're picking him up,  Right?"

and then did just that.  Like he was picking up a mooring ball in a calm anchorage.  Which it most definitely was not.

Lesson:  Boat-handling excellence pays.

 

giegs

Member
409
185
Arid
How often is the Skipper the one actively running the MOB drill? What are the consequences of that if they're the MOB?

 

Chris in Santa Cruz CA

Super Anarchist
5,524
999
earths surface
It takes four strong people minimum to reach down and pull one wet 200 lb wet person up onto a boat if that person cannot help.

Never assume that just because the boat the MOB fell off of and other boats are seemingly attending the MOB that those boats have the boat handling skills and/or the recovery skills to retrieve the MOB especially in cold water. We were third boat on the scene from half mile away and recovered an MOB with three other boats there before us.

MOB? Turn the boat immediately.

 

PaulK

Super Anarchist
It takes four strong people minimum to reach down and pull one wet 200 lb wet person up onto a boat if that person cannot help.

Never assume that just because the boat the MOB fell off of and other boats are seemingly attending the MOB that those boats have the boat handling skills and/or the recovery skills to retrieve the MOB especially in cold water. We were third boat on the scene from half mile away and recovered an MOB with three other boats there before us.

MOB? Turn the boat immediately.
We have a MOB parbuckle tarp made up specifically to help getting victims back aboard.  It's a triangular piece of sailcloth that we shackle to two stanchions on the leeward side of the cockpit and drape over the side.  The third corner has a line spliced to it.  The victim is brought alongside where the cloth is and the line is passed outside of him, then taken to a winch on the windward side of the cockpit or cabin top.  Pulling the line brings the victim up and holds him tight to the boat with a 2:1 increase over whatever force the winch creates.  A 10 year-old could get a 250 pound victim aboard with this setup.  It doesn't involve getting halyards or clipping on to harnesses, and is pretty quick.  Haven't needed to use it for real yet, but have practiced.  

 

JohnMB

Super Anarchist
2,766
555
Evanston
Most important thing I've learned is that when you are approaching the MoB for the first time, have someone throw them an extra float (TypeIV Pdf or equivalent)

No matter how good your practices or skills,  there is always a chance that you will 'miss' and get separated, that extra flotation will help protect the MoB in case their own pdf is not working (or not on), and give you time to get back to them.

 

Bugsy

Super Anarchist
2,406
680
Canada
When I was in the Navy, a very young, slightly drunk, somewhat depressed sailor attempted suicide by jumping over the side of the ship while the ship was in port. 

The recovery pretty much went according to the drills but drills are never done at night.   

 

silent bob

Super Anarchist
8,474
1,138
New Jersey
I was sailing between Angel Island and Sausalito, checking out some systems on a J-105 before the BBS, with one other crewmember.  It was a warm, sunny day.  Flood tide, with about 12kn of breeze, flat water.  Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something in the water off the lee bow.  Sure enough, we have a swimmer!  She had fallen off a Tartan 10.  She had the horseshoe on, and was calm.  I fired up the engine, and furled the jib, and kicked the transom ladder into the water.  There was no way that the crew of the Tartan was going to be able to get her aboard their boat.  She climbed aboard the J-105 easily!  I had the Tartan sail upwind, and I motorsailed the J-105 to their weather quarter.  I had her go up to the bow of the J-105.  As I got into position, she handed the horseshoe over to the Tartan, and then stepped over onto the Tartan.  She worked her way forward, sat on the rail, and hiked out!  I would guess that from the time she hit the water to being back aboard was less than 5 minutes.  

 

Go Left

Super Anarchist
4,602
223
Seattle
Seven PoB recoveries on my resume over 50 years of racing, from breezy mid-ocean to lumpy coastal on big boats to lumpy inshore on small boats.  All successful..  

First take from my world : 

All practices with tossed seat cushions or whatever are useless except in calm water, except to point out the need for a pointer.

Lifesling recoveries look great on dead flat days.  Useless in a real recovery, especially in cold water and wind.

All the suggestions made in seminars are nice suggetions.  Get hands on the swimmer and get them to the transom.  I hope you have a boat with an open transom.

Large, fast boats in the ocean or in real breeze means you stay connected to the boat or it's pretty hopeless.   Short tethers and crotch straps is what works.  My two ocean recoveries the guy always had a hand on a line or the boat. 

In breeze it is near impossible to slow deep narrow cord keeled boats, over-canvassed boats enough to both keep control and effect a rescue without motoring and getting the main down.  

Miraculous recoveries after being separated from the boat like a friend of mine on Sydney Hobart are just plain miraculous.

Personal beacons seem to be a really good idea off shore.

 

PaulK

Super Anarchist
Most important thing I've learned is that when you are approaching the MoB for the first time, have someone throw them an extra float (TypeIV Pdf or equivalent)

No matter how good your practices or skills,  there is always a chance that you will 'miss' and get separated, that extra flotation will help protect the MoB in case their own pdf is not working (or not on), and give you time to get back to them.
Extra flotation is a great idea. We volunteered our J/36 for dinghy-sailing juniors to use for a Storm Trisail Club MOB training.  They had no idea how to stop a keelboat, and roared past the practice cushion - just a foot to leeward - at 8 knots.  Took them several tries to arrive at a speed that would not rip arms off or break bones of the victim or his rescuers.  Quick-stop maneuver got us back in 45 seconds - or less- even with a spinnaker up in 18 knots of wind, but each pass takes more time and the victim is getting tired, cold, and scared. Anything to make his situation easier is good. 

 
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mundt

Anarchist
853
321
=
I had to demonstrate the figure 8 drill recently to qualify to use club boats.  It's a fairly easy maneuver and good to know but it really served to remind me how incredibly difficult it would be to actually save somebody, especially at night, at speed, in big waves and/or shorthanded.  Very, very difficult.  

 

Chris in Santa Cruz CA

Super Anarchist
5,524
999
earths surface
We have a MOB parbuckle tarp made up specifically to help getting victims back aboard.  It's a triangular piece of sailcloth that we shackle to two stanchions on the leeward side of the cockpit and drape over the side.  The third corner has a line spliced to it.  The victim is brought alongside where the cloth is and the line is passed outside of him, then taken to a winch on the windward side of the cockpit or cabin top.  Pulling the line brings the victim up and holds him tight to the boat with a 2:1 increase over whatever force the winch creates.  A 10 year-old could get a 250 pound victim aboard with this setup.  It doesn't involve getting halyards or clipping on to harnesses, and is pretty quick.  Haven't needed to use it for real yet, but have practiced.  
thats a great idea

 

SloopJonB

Super Anarchist
65,895
10,948
Great Wet North
This is a repeat of a story but it's apropos here.

Friends of my father were sailing an Alberg 30 when a queen sized wife went over the side.

She had a vest on and they hooked up with her no problem but try as they might they couldn't get her back on board - not even winching her on a halyard.

They finally towed her ashore and beached her. :D

 

slug zitski

Super Anarchist
5,065
805
worldwide
Had the foredeck man go over in the SORC during a spinnaker takedown 

Bit windy ……time to strike the spinnaker ……jib up , pole winding down, crew triggered the sparcraft , topping was loose, pole  fell and knocked him overboard 

full race crew, got the spinnaker down , crash stopped  , jib down , motored back to man overboard 

perhaps the maneuver  took 15 min .

got alongside the MOB, heaved a line , but the MOB was to weak, shock, drinking seawater to hold on 

made a second pass this time with a crew  in a harness tethered to the yacht 

he jumped over  grabbed the MOB,  then we winched them up with the spinnaker halyard 

if you go over the side you are dead…full race crew and we were lucky to retrieve the MOB 

after all those years I can still see the whole episode  in slow motion 
 

 

SloopJonB

Super Anarchist
65,895
10,948
Great Wet North
if you go over the side you are dead…full race crew and we were lucky to retrieve the MOB
Going over when a spinnaker is up is about the worst possible circumstance.

I had an unintended MOB drill like that long ago - my son didn't clip the turtle to the boat so when we hoisted the chute it went over the side. We did everything "right" but never saw it again.

 

Raz'r

Super Anarchist
59,857
4,584
De Nile
Planning drills on Monday. Going to pretend it's at night and no visual. Kite up. 

Assuming it will be blow the tack, douse, go upwind, and the helm better have hit the MOB button...

Going to give each crew a shot at it.

We shall see.

 

SailingTips.Ca

Feigns Knowledge
737
303
Victoria, BC
When I was in the Navy, a very young, slightly drunk, somewhat depressed sailor attempted suicide by jumping over the side of the ship while the ship was in port. 

The recovery pretty much went according to the drills but drills are never done at night.   
Did the ship deploy a RIB to assist with the recovery? I'd imagine a RIB makes things much easier...

 
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