Sailors Choice Seamanship and Navigation
Guardrails should be continuous around the upper deck. The ends should be secured with lashings or quick release
slips so that you can cut or release them to recover a person from the water.
Treat any slippery areas with either non-skid paint or stick on strips. Pay particular attention to the tops of hatches and
sloping coachroof sides which become walkways when the boat is heeled.
Use harness in rough weather and at night. Make sure they are adjusted to a tight fit or you can fall out of them.
Fit suitably placed harness attachment points close to the companionway so that you can clip on before coming on
deck and on both sides of the cockpit. Rig jackstays on both sides of the boat so that you can walk the full length of the
deck without having to unclip. Flat webbing straps are in some ways better than wire because the wire tends to roll
underfoot when you stand on it.
Wear suitable protective clothing and a lifejacket preferably fitted with reflective tape and a light.
REMEMBER that if you do go over the side, at night or in bad weather, there is a high probability that you will not be
Have the necessary safety equipment to hand so it is ready for immediate use:
HORSESHOE LIFEBOUY - fitted with a light
A DROGUE to prevent drifting.
AN AUTOMATIC LIGHT - a continuous beam is considered most effective.
A DANBOUY - fitted with flag 2 meters clear of the water which assists in marking the position of the
A BUOYANT HEAVING LINE may be necessary in heavy seas if it is difficult to come alongside the person in the water.
Practice man overboard Drill regularly - This can be achieved by using a fender and bucket as your casualty.
When you first discover that someone has fallen overboard, the most important thing to remember is DON'T PANIC!
If the person is on a lifeline, stop the boat immediately and then recover them using the lifeline/harness as necessary.
If you are well prepared and have practiced the drill regularly, you will automatically know how to react.
Immediately throw a lifebuoy and attachment overboard.
Raise the alarm by shouting: " MAN OVERBOARD" (Even if you are the only one left aboard, shouting "man overboard" may provide reasurance to the person in the water).
If there are others on board, instruct a crew member to watch the person in the water and point continuously.
Start your recovery manoeuvre. You may have to lower your sails and start you engine - beware of loose sheets fouling
If possible note your position - most navials have a MOB function - it may prove vital if contact is lost with the person in
the water. REMEMBER the MOB function records where the person fell overboard - he/she will drift away with the tide.
If you are the only person remaining on board, do not leave the deck as you may become disorientated and loose sight
of the person in the water.
During the hours of darkness, a white parachute flare, which will pick up the retro reflective tape on clothing/lifejacket,
can be used to illuminate area.
If you cannot see the person in the water. or have any doubt about your ability to recover him/her, send a mayday call
on your VHF radio.
If you can see the person in the water clearly, a simple 180
degree turn is the quickest.
If you lose sight of the casualty, due to poor visibility, or heavy
weather and sea state, the 'Williamson turn' is a good way to get
on to a reciprocal course which will take you back down your
Put your helm hard over to the starboard and add 60 degrees to
your course. When the compass is reading course + 180 degrees, steer a reciprocal course and the casualty should be ahead of you.
In heavy weather the reciprocal course may bring the sea astern, in which case a short approach head to sea may be
more appropriate once the turn has been completed.
Do not waste time while the boat is turning to approach the person in the water - prepare for the recovery as it is too
late when they are alongside.
- Which side will you approach?
- Have a heaving line ready
- Wear a lifejacket and lifeline; if you don't, you may get pulled on top of the person in the water
The initial approach to the person in the water will vary depending on weather/sea conditions and the type of boat. Let
the weather help rather than hinder - stop unwind and drift down.
If you are concerned about drifting onto the person in the water, bring your stern into the wind. If you're not confident
with your boat handling skills, or if it looks likely that the boat could come down on top of the person in the water, throw
them the heaving line and pull them alongside to a safe place for recovery.
Ensure the propeller is not turning when you are alongside the person in the water.
SAILING-WITHOUT AN ENGINE
A simple way to recovery is to:
1. Put boat into an "apparent" beam reach (burgee across the boat).
Allow yourself some sea room to maneuver and get yourself organized to recover the person from the water.
2. Tack and sail on the opposite beam reach (person in water now on weather bow).
3. Approach on a close reach easing the sheets in the final stages.
Leeway will increase as you slow down - allow for this.
4. In a larger boat it is easier to come alongside to windward of the
person in the water and make the recovery over the leeward side.
5. In a dinghy, come alongside to the leeward of the person in the water and make the recovery by he weather shroud.
WITH AN ENGINE
To stay as close to the person in the water as possible:
1. Come up to wind and tack, leaving headsail cleated so that boat stops hove to.
2. Throw a heaving line to the person in the water, if in range and haul alongide.
3. If not within heaving line range:
- start the engine
- lower or furl the headsail
- sheet the main sail amidships.
Ensure there are no lines or sheets lying loose on deck or overside that
could foul the propeller.
4. Motor to leeway of the person in the water and approach him/her head to wind
IN THE WATER
Look for the lifebuoy which may be close by. Remain calm, keep your legs close together and restrict your legs close
together and restrict your movements to stop flushing cold water under your clothing.
What ever your situation conserve your body heat- the greatest threat to your survival is from the cold. Remember in
cold water during the winter your ability to assist in your rescue will be greatly diminished after 10 minutes.
In rough conditions, turn your back to the waves to keep your mouth and noise clear of spray.
Tighten up wrist, ankle and neck fastenings of protective clothing to reduce heat loss and the onset of hypothermia. Do
not attempt to swim back to the boat for the same reasons.
If you are not wearing protective clothing or any of the safety equipment advised in this booklet - Good Luck, you'll
need it !!
Getting the person aboard can be difficult. If you have a bathing platform or boarding ladder and the person in the water
is able to help themselves, use it if it is safe to do so. If they are unconscious or exhausted, a form of lifting gear will need
to be improvised.
A short strap used in conjunction with a block and tackle rigged on the end of a halyard (sailing vessel) or attached to a
suitable strong securing point on the wheel house (powerboat) would make it easier for a heavy casualty to be brought on
A parbuckle can be improvised by using ropes, nets or a small sail, and then rolling the person out of the water.
A dinghy provides another option for recovery, perhaps by partially deflating one section of the sponson tube to make it
easier to get them on board.
Prevention is better than cure. Ensure that all the actions and safety precautions to prevent a person overboard have
been taken and practice drills regularly in all weathers and sea conditions - You could save someone's life.
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