Man Overboard Exercises

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Omikeoreilly

Member
Joined
Jan 7, 2021
Messages
21
Vessel Name
Summer Wind
Vessel Make
Grand Banks 42
Hey All,

This is a important exercise I have not given enough attention to in my first year of owning a grand banks. I have ordered a horse shoe. I keep 75 ft. of line tied to this and a bright floating ring. I also have a throw bag heaving line 75 Ft.Don't know how effective this is. This is not ocean cruising. Just local cruising. We are alway's in before sunset. The advantage of a Grand bank's is we can stop quickly. This weekend is a long overdue man overboard exercise.

Any advice we can all benefit from?

Thanks.
 
Whoever sees the MOB becomes the pointer and looses all other duties. The pointer keeps pointing at the MOB and never takes eyes off even for an instant. The operator should drop a MOB position on the chart plotter. Make a VHF radio call and ask for help (simulate). Make a controlled turn asap and approach the MOB from downwind so you don’t run over them with the boat in neutral. Throw something/anything that floats to them, preferably a throwable PFD with a line attached to it. Then be prepared to lift a deadweight aboard. It will be almost impossible to unless you are Arnold or the MOB is a small person. How you get the MOB back aboard will depend a lot on how your boat is configured and your strength. But good to think about it now before it happens. The best thing is not to fall overboard in the first place so practice that also. Talk about how to get around the boat safely. When we had a flybridge boat and one of us was going to go below we talked before and used the intercom to confirm that we got below and a call before we were going to come back up top. AND most importantly we wear PFDs any time we are underway, have a bunch of inflatable ones. We have 8 aboard. The 2 we wear also have PLBs and strobes attached. If one of us goes overboard we can activate the PLB and have help on the way to the reported lat/long. Good for you for doing some important training.
 
My recommendation to participants when we discuss this in a class or group discussion is thats its easiest & safest to forget about the approach from down wind (I can imagine in a panic some less experienced thinking which way was that again up or down wind...)
Toss a 50 ftnor so floating line with floating object attached over the stern and circle the MOB like picking up a skier until the person can grab the line / float. Stop the boat and pull them to the boat with engines in neutral or off.
Above is much safer that approaching close.
Overall MOB priorities I review and suggest practicing.
Announce MOB so all aware of situation
Have a designated spotter (and/or person announcing the MOB) and that pers(s) maintain visual on MOB pointing to the person constantly.
Spotter moves into a position where the helmsman can see them for direction info / guidance.
Get MOB attached to the boat (floating line & float)
Get MOB to the boat
Get MOB aboard the boat (this is the tricky part and eill vary for different boats & situations )
All / as many as possible assisting should put on life jackets and nobody enters the water to assist unless wearing a life jacket and is instructed to do so. (May be necessary in some situations such as unconsousness)
 
On my boat, the process involves a rapid launch of the dinghy to clear the swim platform for use, and then recovering the MOB from the platform, rather than the aft deck. That gives them a ladder to climb if conscious and a much shorter lift height if not (aft deck is 4 feet off the water, so a much harder lift).
 
MOB recovery is deceptively fraught with difficulties. Practice of all aspects is important.

MOB RULE #1 - DO NOT JUMP IN AFTER THE VICTIM!!! One MoB at a time, please.

1. Recognition someone has gone overboard. On a day-sail with many people aboard, this is often pretty simple. With a cruising couple or long runs where crew are not always congregated, it may not be. As Comodave states, important as part of pre-trip departure to tell people to yell loudly if someone goes overboard; maintain visual contact while pointing; and create a debris field by throwing anything that will float into the water. In actual MOB events, you need to make a decision when to radio for help - calm/warm condition with a healthy/able-bodied victim may be a non-event. SF Bay waters are 55-degrees - radioing CG ASAP is a very strong recommendation.

2. Maneuver back to the victim. Most helmsmen are surprised at how poorly they do at returning to a victim - they usually end-up too far away and need to circle again. When I was teaching, I taught MOB in mostly open water of SF Bay. I liked the Williamson Turn (see HERE - end of article describes). It reliably reverses course.

3. Make contact with the victim. The heaving bag OP already has is decent, but a Lifesling is better. If using the heaving bag, learn to throw well past the victim over their head so the line lays nearby them vs comes-up short. Lifesling technique is to deploy then circle the victim so the line slowly comes-up to the victim. The last technique (and least preferable unless in warm, calm waters) is to try to maneuver next to the victim. With any amount of chop, the swim platform becomes a battering ram and can do some damage to an exhausted victim.

4. Getting the victim aboard. Best case scenario, the victim has likely been in the water for at least 5-mins, possibly 10 if you do not have recovery gear prepped and ready to be deployed. Except in calm/warm-water conditions, s/he may be exhausted. Worst case scenario here is the husband of a cruising couple goes overboard and his wife gets to watch him go hypothermic and die while tethered to the boat. I hate to be so negative, but for men who want companionship while cruising, this needs to be addressed with their mates - it's in their mind. Lifesling also makes a 5-part lifting tackle (similar to a boom vang on a sailboat) that allows even a small woman to lift a large man onto the boat. But.....there's a catch. You still need a high lifting point so practice is essential to see where the system hangs-up and modify accordingly. You would think the boom on a GB would be a good choice and it is, but you need to practice to get it right. The lifting tackle should be dedicated and easily deployed, not buried in a locker somewhere.

The question that always comes up is "what if the victim is unconscious?" Yet another worst-case scenario. There are no good options here. It's the only time you might consider violating Rule #1 (don't jump in). But you are at serious risk of having a double fatality. It really depends on water/temp conditions.

In closing, I'll relate a tragic story of Larry Klein, a 38-year old Rolex Yachtsman of the Year winner - a professional sailor in excellent condition. He was crewing on an experimental sled during practice runs for the Big Boat Series in SF Bay in the mid 1990s. The boat carried a crew of 7 with 'park benches' for 6 of the crew to out-rig onto when reaching or close-hauled. The bench broke sending 5 of the 6 into the water and a helmsman very short-handed but a ton of spectator and competitor boats. Klein spent less than 10-minutes in the 55-degree water which was enough - he was dead before the paramedics met him at the docks.

The above aside, practicing MOB is fun and a hat flying overboard is always a good opportunity to kick-into an impromptu practice session. Or picking-up a stray piece of garbage.

Good luck. Please update with your findings.

Peter
 
On the recovery equipment front, I keep a 60 foot floating line attached to a ring buoy as the primary tethered throwable device. It's heavy enough that throwing it 40 - 50 feet isn't all that hard. Given a conscious victim, grab that, cleat the line, throw to the victim when the boat is maneuvered close enough. If maneuvering closer without hurting the victim with the boat is a challenge under the conditions, something like that or a lifesling may allow you to pull the victim back to the boat for recovery.
 
Mom -8
Lifesling
Winch or multipurpose block and tackle
Throwables
PLB or AIS any time you’re outside. Harness if sloppy.

Tap MOB on plotter. Blow horn to get everyone up and focused. Drop MOM-8. Do these three things immediately.
Stop boat and keep eyes on MOM. Once another is aware of situation they become sighter. If a twosome cruising think about drift. Approach MOM-8 from leeward trying to sight MOB.
Use life sling to recover making use of mechanical aid if necessary.
Wife wanted a course to teach her before blue water passages so we hired 2 captains (husband and wife). In block island sound on a pleasant day they dropped fluorescent markers in the water to practice MOM. Light chop with no appreciable swell. Lost them all. That was with 4 people on the boat, in daylight and knowing we were doing MOB drills.
They also tried to do practice recoveries with us at anchor. Not even underway. Boat has a swim platform. Found out without major effort on the part of the MOB unless they have use of all four limbs to be able to use the swim ladder there’s no way you’re going to recover a MOB without a mechanical aid of some sort. Forget a seaway. Even in moderate conditions there’s no way my 100lb wife is going to recover me if I’m tired, in shock or have injured a limb.
Have less concern offshore than coastal. Offshore you aren’t casual. You think before you act. It’s the momentary brain fart that scares me. The SAS course teaches it one way. Others another. But you need to do the what if’s for your boat and it’s usual crew.
Will note in the past some commercial fisherman wouldn’t allow their kids to learn how to swim. You fall in the water odds are you’re dead. Life jackets just give you something to bury.
 
On a related note:
When anchored in an area with any current, I deploy a trailing line (tag line) with about 25' of 1/2" polypropylene line and a small fender ball. If someone falls overboard (I travel solo most of the time), it's much more likely they can get themselves to the line before they have drifted too far away. The ball tells me and other boaters where the line is. This line also makes catching the boat much easier when returning in the dinghy or kayak.

20210915_084034.jpg

20210915_084147.jpg

Ted
 
Oh forgot to mention forget about swimming back to the boat and self rescue. Was crossing north sound BVI to do laundry using the dinghy. Some yo yo with four outboards on the back aimed at me and although I went WOT to escape but still I got waked. Popped out of the dinghy like a kernel of popcorn. Cruiser entering the sound saw this and headed over to help me. He had dropped his sails so when close put his engine in neutral and started to drift with the wind. Although he was drifting maybe 2 kts plus or minus there was no way I could catch up to him. He needed to go into idle and use his thruster to stay still enough I could get close. If you fall in and there’s no one on the boat who knows how to run it and take it off AP. Well you’re——— out of luck.
 
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Lots of good advice and ideas here. I'll add two more. After the practice, drill if you will, hold a de-brief. Everyone says how they think it went, what went wrong, what needs improvement. As you continue to drill with each iteration up the difficulty a bit.
 
MOB recovery, easier said than done.
All the good advice presumes that one or more people still on board can operate the boat.
Best advice, don't fall in. In local waters time is of the essence. Seconds count.

The MOB usually did not fall over in calm water so would be wearing a flotation device, right?
Get the boat back to the MOB asap. Then bring MOB back aboard asap.
 
Glad to see so much engagement in this. Like some others in this thread I spent a career in rescue training this into others. I'm boatless at the moment but when I charter we do some drills as a family on the morning we shove off for our vacation each time - MOB, fire, and "muster." When we invite guests on board who will be there for more than just a couple hours we don't drill again but we do brief them for these three emergencies. I enjoy my kids getting older and being able to more fully participate as crew. I make sure I'm not the only one who knows how to deploy the life raft, or use the tender crane or activate the EPIRB.

BTW, I'll add my 2c about tackle or some other way to get a MOB back on board! Getting them alongside in a squared-away fashion is great, but in a boat that is not purpose built for recovering things from the sea even fit people have a hard time getting an unconscious person out of the water. How many people will you have helping you? Are you getting up there in years, have back problems? What if the victim is heavier than average? Even rolling or dragging them onto a swim platform is harder than you would think. Make this part of your next drill somehow, and you will see how difficult it is for your boat. I think ASA courses teach these techniques (maybe?), but powerboat classes too often don't. If you have a low-ish transom or bulwark, or a swim platform I'm a fan of the recovery net myself, though rigging something up to hoist the rescue sling works fine IF you are practiced at it.
 
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If you are a couple cruising, the drills I have seen and done, are iffy at best.

We have done MOB drills on a trawler and sailboats, but mostly under sail, which is soooo much more difficult. Under power is easier.

The big issues with MOB:

  1. Knowing someone fell overboard.
  2. Finding/Figuring where they went overboard.(One might see or hear the person go over so this might not be an issue.
  3. Seeing them.
  4. Helming the boat to the person in the water.(Easier under Power)
  5. Getting them back aboard.
With a two person crew all of these are really difficult.

When we were on a trawler, we were in a gale, the boat was moving around pretty good, and I went on the back and side deck to take some photos. I quickly went back in the boat because if I fell overboard, I was dead. The rest of the crew was in the pilot house, and even if they knew I went overboard immediately, so they knew WHERE I was, SEEING me was going to be very difficult with the 6-8 foot steep waves and white caps. Getting me back on board would have been the easy part and it would not have been easy. :socool::nonono:

IF you see the person go overboard, throw every thing you can that floats into the water. You really need one of the floating MOB poles but even these are going to be hard to see in medium sized waves. Big and bright is what is needed at a minimum. If the chart plotter has a MOB function hit that button.

A Personal Locator Beacon(PLB) is the best solution to help find and see the POB.

Seeing a person's head in the water is very difficult. For practice, toss a small head sized buoy in the water and you will see, well, not see, what I mean. With just a bit of waves that small head is hard to find which is why you want to toss as much stuff in the water as you can to help you find where the person went into the water. Having said that, stuff that is light and floating, is going to get blown down wind from the POB.

Keeping your eye on the person in the water is critical, yet if two people are on the boat, and one is in the water, that is impossible to do. One person has to handle the boat, and on a trawler, that person is likely going to loose sight of that person in the water as they go to the helm. Even on a sailboat with a cockpit, this is hard to do, not only because the person has to helm the boat, but they also have to handle the sails to get back to the person in the water. It is impossible in that situation to keep your eye on the person in the water.

Once you get the boat to the person, you have to figure out how to get them back on board. If the POB is still able, they might be able to climb a ladder but it is likely one will have to use a life sling, a bight of rope, net like objects, etc. to get the POB back in the boat. This is really a problem. The person in the water might not be able to help at all...

In the last week or so, a woman went swimming off a beach in the Netherlands. A couple in a sailboat somehow found the woman 11KM off shore. :eek: What are the odds? The problem was the couple on the sailboat could not get the woman out of the water. They had to call the coast guard which sent a helicopter to get the woman out of the sea. The swimmer could have died waiting for that helicopter. What would the couple have done if one of them had gone in the water?

Later,
Dan
 
At the pre-PMM TrawlerFests, I used to do MoB demo's dockside after lunch to get folks back down to the sales' docks. West Marine was the biggest event sponsor at the time, and Chuck Hawley (CMO for West Marine and the guy who wrote the "Advisor" columns in their catalog) was usually around. We would pick the biggest guy and the smallest woman out of the attendees. The big guy would stuff into a gumby suit and the small woman would use the Lifesling 5:1 tackle to hoist him. Through the process, we'd demonstrate how you needed to plan ahead to make sure the boat was properly equipped for lifting to a proper height - few powerboats are.

Chuck Hawley was one of the great industry contributors. Back in the day, West Marine was an active contributor and spear-headed the development of the Lifesling, arguably the most important advance in MoB gear in last 50-years, at least since advent of PLB (Personal Locator Beacons).

While we're on the topic of falling overboard, make sure your marina or docks have a ladder in case you fall overboard. I once had a dock neighbor fall into the water on a Tuesday afternoon when the marina was empty. A heavy guy, he ended up crawling up the rip-rap rocks and banging himself up pretty well. Better than the alternative, but still.....a ladder would have been much better.

Get a Lifesling and lifting tackle and figure out what it will take to use it. Hire someone to teach your spouse how to drive the boat, at least in an emergency. Women view this stuff much differently than men do - just knowing she has basic knowledge will set her mind at ease. Chances are she worries about "What if something happens to him?"
 
The person in the water also needs to know what to do (if concious). Any throwable lifeline should have a carabiner on it. The MOB needs to first hook that to the PFD. No PFD? That's a problem, but hook it as a belt or under arm loop. Yes, they may be concious now, but in 10 minutes? As the MOB, don't try to swim or pull yourself in hand-over-hand. Oooops, I lost the rope. That's a problem if the line isn't secured (both ends) Also, it is much easier to pull in somebody who is lying on their back, even without an inflated PFD, than when they are attempting to "swim" fully clothed.

Even if you can't lift them free of the water, if they are secured to the side of the boat you won't see them drift away when hypothermia sets in. If help arrives from other boats, it is still possible to get them aboard and revive. Not possible if you have watched them sink.

MOB excercises are not fun. When my father first got a trawler, I threw a plastic milk jug over in Lake Union on a flat calm day. It probably took him 45 minutes to get close enough to recover it. Several times he asked me to take the helm. Nope, that's not the idea. It could be me in the water. A very sobering experience.
 
...
MOB excercises are not fun. When my father first got a trawler, I threw a plastic milk jug over in Lake Union on a flat calm day. It probably took him 45 minutes to get close enough to recover it. Several times he asked me to take the helm. Nope, that's not the idea. It could be me in the water. A very sobering experience.

POB drills are not fun but they are sobering, learning exercises. If there had been one foot waves, seeing that milk jug gets hard real fast. Learning to keep your situational awareness, i.e., where is that PBO/buoy, while the boat is maneuvering, is important which is why it is so helpful to have a spotter that never takes their eyes off the POB.

But if the boat has a crew of two.....

Later,
Dan
 
POB drills are not fun but they are sobering, learning exercises. If there had been one foot waves, seeing that milk jug gets hard real fast. Learning to keep your situational awareness, i.e., where is that PBO/buoy, while the boat is maneuvering, is important which is why it is so helpful to have a spotter that never takes their eyes off the POB.

But if the boat has a crew of two.....

Later,
Dan

I was about to say the same thing. All these drills are great if you have a number of experienced people on board, but 95% or more of the time we cruise as a couple. We have done MOB drills with just the 2 of us on our sailboats, but have yet to do one on our power boat. I know we are overdue.
 
I was about to say the same thing. All these drills are great if you have a number of experienced people on board, but 95% or more of the time we cruise as a couple. We have done MOB drills with just the 2 of us on our sailboats, but have yet to do one on our power boat. I know we are overdue.

Exactly. My guess is that the drills/process was designed around the idea of a POB when someone is racing with a number of crew on board. With two people on board it is a different exercise especially with on sail boat.

Later,
Dan
 
I was about to say the same thing. All these drills are great if you have a number of experienced people on board, but 95% or more of the time we cruise as a couple. We have done MOB drills with just the 2 of us on our sailboats, but have yet to do one on our power boat. I know we are overdue.

Wife and I also 95% of the time. Fortunately for her being the more experienced I hang on better so less likely she needs to fish me out. :flowers:
 
Cross slightly upwind of the MOB, dragging the deployed rescue harness. Slow to a stop, deploy the stern stairs, and pull in the MOB.

In the below photo, receiving a dinghy "taxi".
 

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To the original poster:

Do you have an electric hoist motor on your boom for dinghy recovery to the cabin top, or do you have some sort of Weaver or other davit for a dink at the stern?

Is the dink inflatable?

My primary person recovery on a GB42 (I had one a LONG time) would be into that dinghy at the stern, if so rigged. Otherwise an electric hoist using the boom, assuming you get the person to put the horse collar under their armpits.
 
Thank you all for so much great guidance. I hope this keep's us all safer.
 
Another few bubbles to burst.

Every year would care for or pronounce people who had died or suffered anoxic encephalopathy after immersion. Not infrequently they did not drown. Rather sudden cold water immersion sets off a set of reflexes and shock. The shock produces a sudden fall in cardiac output with resultant death or severe brain anoxia.

Strongest point is don’t fall off the boat. Even in summer but most frequently in the spring and fall there’s enough temperature gradient between ambient air and ocean water to precipitate this cascade in very coastal settings. Once you’re away from water a few feet deep baking over sand the water can be quite cold so this can occur near shore. It’s not just an offshore concern.
People have faith after spending big bucks on hydrostatic triggered vests. They’re right the dissolving paper ones can trigger while you’re working on deck if you see enough green water. But then they don’t buy and use crotch straps nor a sea hood. When you’re in the water due to your anatomy you will tend to face the wave train. Aspirate that seawater you gag. You may aspirate further and die from the aspiration never having drowned per se. When you go MOB and the vest triggers without crotch straps there’s a real good chance you’re no longer in it. So for short money get the hood and crotch straps.
When doing passages if given a choice between a harness and tether v a PFD I’d pick the harness and tether.

Lastly everyone who gets on my boat gets the MOB training before we leave the dock. Don’t care if they’re a yachtmaster, CG captain or ring knocker. Want everyone thinking the same way and knowing what’s on the boat and where.
 
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The PO of my boat had a LifeSling as well as very good tackle setup to hoist someone on board. The tackle was left attached to a stanchion on the upper deck so it was always ready to use.

Good idea right? Two problems however. The first is that the Lifesling’s bitter end wasn’t actually attached to the boat. I’m sure it was at one time, but someone untied it, maybe someone he had paid to wash/wax the boat. The second problem is that after 6 years out in the weather, the line in the tackle was too stiff to be really useful.

I re-positioned the Lifesling after we bought the boat and put it in a fiberglass box instead of the vinyl bag that disintegrates over time. I have not solved the issue of the hosting tackle. If I was the one on the boat, I’d use the crane once the mob was secured. There is no way I could lift my wife into the boat and by the time I could retrieve her, she likely wouldn’t be able to climb up the swim ladder after spending 10-15 minutes in the 50 degree water.

If I go in the water, it would take my wife much longer to retrieve me and currently i don’t think she could get me on board. So, I likely wouldn’t survive. That is a problem which really does have to be addressed better.
 
Another few bubbles to burst.

Every year would care for or pronounce people who had died or suffered anoxic encephalopathy after immersion. Not infrequently they did not drown. Rather sudden cold water immersion sets off a set of reflexes and shock. The shock produces a sudden fall in cardiac output with resultant death or severe brain anoxia.

Strongest point is don’t fall off the boat. Even in summer but most frequently in the spring and fall there’s enough temperature gradient between ambient air and ocean water to precipitate this cascade in very coastal settings. Once you’re away from water a few feet deep baking over sand the water can be quite cold so this can occur near shore. It’s not just an offshore concern.
People have faith after spending big bucks on hydrostatic triggered vests. They’re right the dissolving paper ones can trigger while you’re working on deck if you see enough green water. But then they don’t buy and use crotch straps nor a sea hood. When you’re in the water due to your anatomy you will tend to face the wave train. Aspirate that seawater you gag. You may aspirate further and die from the aspiration never having drowned per se. When you go MOB and the vest triggers without crotch straps there’s a real good chance you’re no longer in it. So for short money get the hood and crotch straps.
When doing passages if given a choice between a harness and tether v a PFD I’d pick the harness and tether.

Lastly everyone who gets on my boat gets the MOB training before we leave the dock. Don’t care if they’re a yachtmaster, CG captain or ring knocker. Want everyone thinking the same way and knowing what’s on the boat and where.
I agree, especially with the bolded. I have used the harness & tether offshore and in conditions dependent.
Now detail your MOB training as given to a noob.
 
Of course a person could fall over in the calmest conditions, but most likely it would occur when the seas are rough, the boat is being tossed around. Under the latter, retrieval by one person on board appears grim. Controlling the boat, setting up the gear and maintain visual on MOB while remaining calm/focused is a challenge.
 
Another few bubbles to burst.

Every year would care for or pronounce people who had died or suffered anoxic encephalopathy after immersion. Not infrequently they did not drown. Rather sudden cold water immersion sets off a set of reflexes and shock. The shock produces a sudden fall in cardiac output with resultant death or severe brain anoxia.

Strongest point is don’t fall off the boat. Even in summer but most frequently in the spring and fall there’s enough temperature gradient between ambient air and ocean water to precipitate this cascade in very coastal settings. Once you’re away from water a few feet deep baking over sand the water can be quite cold so this can occur near shore. It’s not just an offshore concern. ...

And there is Cold Water Gasp Reflex which is an involuntary gasp one makes if the head is immersed in cold water.

We have many drownings in my area each spring and I think most of them, if not all of them, are Cold Water Gasp Reflex. The water is still cold but the air temps can be hot and humid. People jump, fall, or slip so that their head goes underwater, and that is that.

Most of these spring drownings are in local man made lakes and ponds. I don't think people realize that this is not the beach, that the underwater topography can be steep and that the clay that makes up our so called soil is very slippery when wet. People wade out in the cold water, then slip on the clay which is on a steep contour and it is Cold Water Gasp Reflex time. :eek:

This has been a very bad year for drownings in NC. It was a bad spring and many people have drowned this summer on local lakes but mostly on the ocean beaches. Many of the ocean drownings have been from rip currents that people do not know how to handle. There was a 78 year old woman who drowned yesterday at the beach. Been a really bad year.

Later,
Dan
 
Several have mentioned that the best thing is to not fall over in the first place. This is most especially true for those who remain on the boat. One MOB is bad enough, two is practically unmanageable. So, those who are left on the boat need to harness and tether in, before they get themselves into any sort of precarious position.


If you climb down onto the swim platform to retrieve the person in the water, you had better be darned certain that you are not going to end up going in with them!
 
Found this in the ol' digital mail box about cold water survival, https://www.practical-sailor.com/sa...er+Survival&utm_campaign=WP20210914-LifeRafts. Got it a few days ago and finally had time to look at it. :facepalm: Tis timely for this discussion. :)

Hopefully, people can read the link.

When we read about a sailor lost overboard in a storm, we think about PFDs and personal locator beacons, and accept the sea is unforgiving. When we read of novice boaters drowning in a local lake, we’re sad, but say that will not happen to us because we wear PFDs. But when we read of a PFD-equipped sailor falling overboard and dying within minutes, it’s a real eye-opener.

Spring sailing in temperate climates still carries the risk of cold water shock. With the water temperature in the low 50s, true hypothermia sets in at about 30 minutes. Swimming can be difficult after about 20 minutes. However, 50 degrees is well below the accepted threshold of shock. Most likely, when the icy water slams into a person’s face it causes an involuntary gasp. It’s hard to recover from inhaling water, even for a strong swimmer.

Originally known as sudden disappearance syndrome, cold water shock has been known since the 1970s. Different from true hypothermia, which results from the body core temperature dropping over a period of 20 minutes to hours, cold water shock is immediate. Being cast headfirst into icy water is one of most severe shocks a human can face, with deadly effects. It is estimated that 20 percent of victims die within 2 minutes.

Physical effects

The instantaneous reflex is a violent gasp, totally unlike the one scary movies strive to cause. This results in a massive in rush of air, which can be fatal if you are underwater. Unlike the controlled plunges of the local polar bear club, where participants walk in via a beach and are attended by rescue swimmers in dry suits, MOB sailors plunge in head first, the result of tripping over the lifeline. Even with an automatic vest, your head will plunge 6 feet underwater before popping to the surface. If the first blast of inhaled water doesn’t drown you, you’ll arrive on the surface gasping and unable to swim and swallowing more. Drowning will typically occur in less than a minute. The initial gasp is followed by several minutes of hyperventilation, making any physical effort nearly impossible.

Consequences include the inability to hold your breath or think clearly.

Instantaneous and massive increases in heart rate and blood pressure can cause heart failure in otherwise healthy individuals. Clear thought is impossible. Panic is likely, only serving to increase problems with breathing control and heart rate.
Thought this comment in the Conclusions was interesting. Makes sense given UK geography.

In the UK, coldwater shock is considered to be the root cause of most drowning, including non-boating accidents.
Later,
Dan
 
Returning to the MOB

There are some really, really good comments throughout this thread, but there has not been much attention paid to maneuvering your boat as you approach the MOB.

Getting - and STAYING - near him or her is a huge part of this process. I have been involved in 3 MOB's over my 40+ years on the water - - - two as a crewmember on commercial fishing boats in Alaska and one as a skipper on a racing sailboat in Southern California. We used the same procedure in each case. Using the "Williamson Turn" mentioned in a prior post, bring the boat to a position a few boat lengths dead downwind of the MOB. Power the boat upwind until you are just past him or her, and turn so the wind is almost abeam and you are UPWIND of the MOB. Being upwind provides a few advantages: You create a calm(er) lee for the victim so they aren't fighting the waves, and most importantly, the wind won't blow you away from the victim! The concern about drifting on top of the victim is unfounded - getting blown away from them is a much more realistic problem.

Also a quick note about sailboats. Drop the headsail immediately but leave the mainsail up and flogging. When alongside and with the wind at the beam, sheet in hard on the main, It causes the boat to heel over in irons and reduces the freeboard substantially.
 

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