Instructables

Rescuing someone fallen overboard from a boat

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(try this, it's fun - and who knows, you might save a life one day)

If someone falls into a pool, it's usually more humourous than a cause for alarm. Even if they are hurt, as long as someone sees them, they can be pulled out quickly enough to prevent drowning.

If they fall from a boat, or into a fast-flowing river, it's more serious.

If someone falls off the back of a boat doing 6 knots, Instantly they are too far away to climb back. In ten seconds they are 30 metres away - too far to throw a line. In five minutes they are nearly a kilometer away, about the apparent size of the planet Venus. In 30 minutes in cold water, they may die from hypothermia.
 
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Step 1: Equipment Required

In a real emergency, if you don't have something, improvise. It's more important to get on with the rescue than to waste time looking for the "correct" equipment.

The following items are useful, at the least. They may be required equipment in some jurisdictions and for boats of a certain size.

- 60 metres of floating line
- two life buoys, or medium sized floats
- a marker buoy
- a boarding ladder (should extend 80cm into the water)
- a sling, or harness
- davits or spar with block and winch
- floating lights
- PFD (personal flotation device or life jacket), one per person, with light and whistle
- GPS receiver
- VHF radio
- Heaving line (flaked into a soft bag for an effective throw)
- powerful flashlight or spotlight
- swim fins

The purpose of the marker pole is to be visible in waves several feet high. Typically the pole is sold with a code "O" flag ("man overboard") in a cover. Mine was lost and replaced with a scrap of fabric.

The small floating lights are suitable for attachment to a PFD. The larger one is intended to be attached to the life buoy, but may be used separately. The small ones are activated by contact with water, the larger one by orientation (when stored inverted, it is off).

The sling shown is actually intended for someone to sit in while working aloft, not as a rescue sling. But it is strong enough, and easy to secure around a victim.

A block and winch are useful to retrieve an injured or unconscious victim. On a sailboat, the main boom may be used as lifting tackle as shown. On a powerboat, a boat davit may be available. Even on a relatively small boat, the deck may be a metre above water level so a "pool rescue" technique is unsuitable.

(It would probably be better to stow the bicycle somewhere else. However, it is not actually preventing easy removal of the lifebuoys. The buoy shown needs repair, but is fully functional - anything to hand is better than the best equipment stowed out of reach)
vincent75203 years ago
nice bathing but this is anything but a rescue drill…
except for the turn : any object thrown in the water could have done the trick… but both kids enjoyed the experience
otherwise the crew does not perform his duty = someone constantly watchi g the mMOB with arm stretched in his / her direction, compass route checked and remembered as soon as the crew falls into the water sails being already furled this solves most of the problem but does not reflect true to life conditions (eg. slacking the sail, starting the engine, checking there is no line overboard that could snag the propeller which would seriously jeopardize the mob's chance of survival), immediate call of the CG on the VHF, and using the equipment you designed for that : the long tether that was supposed to allow the mob to get a quick link with the boat, the recovery sling (most of the tie a mob is shocked if not injured, and will not be able to climb the ladder so gallantly (but in less than in emergency) offered by the crew member, the hailyard at the end of the boom : all this should be done in less than one minute.
It can be done even with a short handed crew… but the solution is know your boat, have it ready, and drill, drill, drill all the time !!!…
I know it's not that easy with friends who are here on vacations, but better bother now than sorry later
when I can I'll post my own recovery procedure with my own boat
thank you anyway !!!!
whr2415 years ago
Man overboard rescue in a sailboat under sail is accomplished by immediately designating someone to watch the victim . The Capt falls off the wind & does a controlled jibe;sails down wind of the victim ;when the boat is 2-3 boat lengths from the victim ,the capt heads boat into the wind & along side the victim ,(depowering the sails stops all forward movement of the boat & with the assistance of crew the victim is pulled aboard . If you have a motor you do the same procedures outlined above .Do not waste valuable time reducing or taking the sails down ! All responsible Capts practice the man overboard drill as I have outlined it inorder execute it correctly & make the rescue approach specific for their boat ! All boats should have a ladder so the victim can easily get back into the boat ! All sailors or crew should wear life jackets or a personal floatation device with a whistle attached to it ! .
adaviel (author)  whr2415 years ago
I pretty much agree with all this. The 2 days we did a drill, there was no wind, but yes, it should be practiced under sail. On my boat, the jib obscures the view ahead off the leeward bow, and with roller furling it's quick to get it out of the way. Unless it's needed to make way, I'd recommend rolling it up. For other sails, it's more of a judgment call. With my Bermudan rig, I wanted to use the boom as a hoist, and it only takes maybe 30 seconds to drop the sail and secure it. I have not tried a drill in bad weather (even a hat), but based on my experience trying to reef during a gale, the mainsail is a significant hazard to anyone trying to work on deck on a 30ft boat. Getting whacked in the face by a wet mainsheet is at best a distraction, while having a second crew member knocked overboard during an uncontrolled gybe by a panicked helmsman is decidedly unhelpful. With sufficient experienced crew to simultaneously work the sails and safely perform the rescue it would be different.
Rick555 years ago
I was a Sailor with lots of training from the US Navy we lost guys overboard out at Sea heading for Vietnam from the Phillipines we lost two and found one alive the others bodies were never found!! we searched for days also we had aft watches on every ship in the vacinity if you lose someone at sea they are very difficult to find, falling overboard is not a viable option!!!!
uldics Rick555 years ago
Danish Navy had also aft watches on their last real military cadet practice ship Møen (2004, decommissioned now) . But for my knowledge, that was the last place in their Navy with such traditions (also many other, like boatswains call and the like). It was some nice time I had there. My present employer, Latvian Navy hasn't even dreamed of such traditions.
adaviel (author)  Rick555 years ago
Occasionally people get lucky. like this guy near here
uldics5 years ago
Standard Williamson turn, according to IAMSAR, is first 60 degrees, then 30 degrees. Using hard port/stbd of course.
adaviel (author)  uldics5 years ago
I forget my original source; I've been using the 90-270 one which as I say can be estimated using a point abeam, I recall another version with 3 turns, I think 30-300-30, giving a symmetrical lollipop shape.
uldics adaviel5 years ago
This (90-270) sounds like really nice rule of thumb. My mentioned 60-30 is kinda standard, of course each and every ship has its own best angles to achieve fastest manoeuver, where both sides are not identical.
Learndy5 years ago
This is a really great instructable! I attended boating and sailing instructions where we learned how to perform the maneuver 'man over board' - well, 'buoy over board' since we threw a fender over board instead of a person.

The Williamson turn looks really effective. However, I am more a sailor and on a sailboat this is impossible. However, there are other options.

And a last remark from my side: Many boating / sailing GPS receivers have a mark button to set the current position as waypoint. Usually it gets the name 'MOB' (Man Over Board) by default. Simply press buttons 'mark', then 'goto' to see where to find your victim.
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adaviel (author)  Learndy5 years ago
Yes, coming about under sail is going to be more difficult. I suggest furling the sails and doing it under power. Otherwise you'd aim to come into the wind near the victim. I do mention the GPS; my Garmin has the MOB button you mention. Also my old autopilot had one, which assumed constant speed. If you know how to use this effectively, great. I was meaning to mark a waypoint during a drill and see how well it worked, but forgot.
uldics5 years ago
As an instructable, great work. Just one thing. Shouldnt anyone, who goes out sailing allready have SOLAS courses completed and know all this?
adaviel (author)  uldics5 years ago
I did read recently of a sailing race requiring some kind of certification.. But historically, no, you don't need anything. Canada has recently required a test for anything with an engine, but it's aimed more at powerboats. I don't know what courses would actually require you to practice a live recovery, as opposed to just reading up on it.
uldics5 years ago
When approaching, you have to steer on the wind side from victim, then the wind helps by blowing you closer and not away from the person.
Bartboy5 years ago
Great ible!
nagutron5 years ago
I love these bits of knowledge. I'm no sailor, but who knows when this kind of thing will come in handy. You presented it well enough that even on a single read, I'll probably have the essential points in my head if something like this ever happens in my presence.
ycc21065 years ago
Wow! I'd never thought about all this - thanks for sharing!
great! That Williamson turn seemed counter-intuitive until I read the description. I bet a lot of people (me included) would have just tried to circle around in one turn. But the Williamson seems like a smarter choice, especially if you're further away.
This is good to know.