6 tips for handling a man-overboard rescue

November 3, 2015

One of the worst things that can happen while sailing is a man-overboard (MOB) emergency. This situation requires you to not only act quickly, but also understand how to properly manoeuvre your sailboat in very diverse conditions. Here is a guide on how to properly react during a MOB situation and ultimately save a life.

6 tips for handling a man-overboard rescue

1. If it floats, throw it

  • Even if the man-overboard (MOB) is wearing a life jacket, it's important to throw plenty of floating objects as soon as you realize someone has gone in the water.
  • You should be tossing life rings, boat buoys and whatever else floats.
  • This will help you locate your MOB easier and keep them above water during rough conditions

2. Have a LifeSling onboard

  • You should also think about having a LifeSling onboard, which was specially designed by the nonprofit Sailing Foundation for MOB situations.
  • It's a very common life-saving device that is seen on many sailboats.
  • It allows you to throw a flotation collar, attached to a rope connected to your boat,  to a MOB.
  • You should also know how to deploy a LifeSling and properly manoeuvre your boat once someone is attached to this device.

3. Press the MOB button

  • If you have a GPS unit, it should have an MOB button that you can quickly push as soon as you realize someone has gone under.
  • Hit this as soon as possible to get the exact coordinates of where your MOB went over.
  • In rough conditions, it's easy to lose track of an MOB.
  • These coordinates can not only help your search, but also the rescue authorities if you're unable to recover the MOB yourself.

4. All crew on deck

  • You might not have many people on your boat with you, but as soon as someone goes overboard, it's important to have at least one person acting as a spotter to keep an eye on the MOB.
  • Everyone else should be working to manoeuvre the boat into a rescue position or deploy a LifeSling.

5. Use your engine

  • In most instances, it's a good idea to manoeuvre into a rescue position by using your engine.
  • Slacken or cut your sails if they are preventing you from going where you want.
  • As you approach the victim, be sure to cut the engine or go into neutral.

6. MOB rescue turns

  • For many MOB situations, it's important to know different MOB rescue turns, such as the quick turn, a gybe turn, a Williamson turn, and the figure-8 technique. Many of these manoeuvres are designed with MOB situations in mind, and help you respond to different situations.
  • Some techniques are good in rough waters while others are better with small sailboats, so it's important to practice many MOB techniques beforehand in order to reach your MOB as quickly as possible.
  • Ultimately, having the right equipment and deploying the right boating techniques can help you handle just about any MOB situation properly.
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