Man overboard! Some tips for an effective rescue

The CEPIM – (the European Centre for the Prevention of Incidents at Sea ) based in Crac’h in Brittany has produced a video about recovering a man overboard . Being able to locate the person in the water is key to an effective rescue and they have some good tips about how to increase the visibilty of the person whose fallen overboard. In their test rescues, they encountered various problems using a life sling which are described below .

Increasing MOB Visibility

  • If you’ve fallen in the water – put the hood of your sailing jacket on your head. It will make you a lot more visible.

  • Have a sachet of sea dye marker / fluorescin in the pocket of your sailing jacket. The marker is a fluorescent dye that once opened spreads over the surface of the water and increases your visibility. The bright green stain on the water can be seen for a mile or more and lasts for at least 30 to 40 minutes. It will greatly facilitate your recovery.

  • Drop a floating smoke flare into the water as quickly as possible into the water to mark the approximate position of the MOB in the water. This means having one accessible in the cockpit at all times. Crew members may want to have a small flare in their jacket pockets as well.

  • If you are the one in the water – try waving your arms in the air – this makes you more visible and indicates to the crew on board that you are conscious and can participate in your own rescue.

Sea dye marker greatly increases the visibility of a man overboard Use a smoke flare to mark the position of a man overboard

Problems using the life sling

In their test rescues using a JOD 35, the CEPIM found that dropping the sails was better than heaving to. Hove to, the JOD 35 they were using for the rescue drill, was still moving forward at around 1 to 2 knots.

Whether the boat was hove to or had dropped sails, the person being rescued always struggled fitting the rescue sling over the top of their inflated life-jacket. But it was much more difficult when the boat was moving forward, due to the tension in the line going back to the boat pulling the sling away. In one of the rescue attempts, unable to fit the rescue sling around himself, the MOB tried putting just his arm in the sling and letting himself be pulled back to the boat by the crew. This led him to being dragged through the water with his life jacket pushing up against his face awkwardly, perhaps even dangerously… The drag he exerted made the boat very difficult to manoeuvre; the helmsman complaining he was unable to head up. Despite being a very fit lifeguard, the man in the water quickly became exhausted trying to hold on to the life-sling – to the point of having to let go.

The recovery manoeuvre was much more successful with the boat completely stopped with sails dropped upwind of the man overboard. The person in the water could then calmly put on the sling . The sling worked best if the person being rescued let themselves be dragged backwards though the water towards the boat.

You can watch the full video in French here.