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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.

 

Picture courtesy of McMurdo.co.uk

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Hi! While I agree the best method is just to prevent overboard passengers to start, we all know that's unlikely. In many of those articles you suggested they provide methods which can be performed decently by experienced boaters (though not...

Hi! While I agree the best method is just to prevent overboard passengers to start, we all know that's unlikely. In many of those articles you suggested they provide methods which can be performed decently by experienced boaters (though not always), but the issue I have found in researching this topic is that it is often the captain (ie the most experienced person on the boat) who ends up falling overboard. This leaves people who have not trained in rescue, or even in operating a boat to save the victim! To address this issue, I have recently patented a device to help make overboard rescue faster and more reliable than traditional methods, regardless of the experience of the boat operator.

The device I patented is called Rescu Swim'r, and it works as a rudder and helps vector the life ring safely to the overboard passenger. It can be easily attached to any Type IV PFD. In trials WITHOUT the device it took an average of 9min 51sec for people to get a PFD to the man overboard, but WITH Rescu Swim'r it took the same group of people on average 1min 14sec. Huge difference! Time saved not only increases the chance of survival of the man overboard, but also increases the chance that they'll still have control of their limbs (before cold-water shock sets in) and be able to actually help themselves re-board the boat.

Traditional rescue methods just don't save people fast enough, Rescu Swim'r uses simple physics to solve that problem. Check out the website (rescuswimr.com) for more info; we made videos and have trial footage to show how Rescu Swim'r works.

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