Safety At Sea: Man Overboard Rescue

ais beacons family large"London businesswoman Sarah Young has been laid to rest at sea after dying during a global yacht race." This man overboard headline from the Guardian newspaper caught my eye yesterday and made me think about safety at sea, especially after our own recent yacht delivery from Guadeloupe to Miami. 

Ms. Young died after being washed overboard by a large wave while competing in the Clipper Round The World Yacht Race. Ms. Young was not tethered and did not seem to be wearing a personal Man Overboard (MOB) beacon. While we don’t know the exact circumstances of Ms. Young’s tragic death, I have to wonder that perhaps if she was tethered, perhaps she would be alive today. 

Unfortunately, few of us actually heed the most basic safety rules and we become somewhat complacent.

Avoid Man Over Board Situations

For Stephen and I, it is a rule when aboard our boat that if you have to be on deck in rough seas, especially at night, you should be wearing a harness and be tethered to a lifeline. We also have personal self-activating AIS MOB devices for each crewmember on board like this one from McMurdo. These devices are now affordable so each crewmember can and should wear one. While none of these safety precuations will guarantee survival, a MOB’s chances for survival increase dramatically with the right gear. Do we always do this? No, but this incident will make me think twice now.

Know How to Retrieve a MOB

Every crewmember should also brush up on the MOB procedure and know exactly how to quickly get a crewmember back on board! Practice and discuss this with your crew. There are several ways to get a person back on board. Being shorthanded, the method of retrieval preferred by us, is the "Quick Stop" or "Crash Stop" method. It works in almost all situations and requires only one crew member and no sail trimming so that all your attention will be on the Crew in the water. This article in Sailing Magazine discuss several scenarios and MOB recovery methods. Figure out what works for you and practice it. In a MOB situation, one tends to panic but with practice, you will be more apt to approach the recovery calmly and with confidence.

These man-overboard procedures were tested using a life-size dummy and is described in MOB lifesaving lessons learned at sea in Yachting Monthly. It is well worth reading and reviewing with your crew.


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