Man Overboard practice with a real man!

by Jax on August 24, 2014

Although they have sailed with us from Brighton to Chichester, Lymington and Cherbourg, with our crew still reasonably new to our boat, we thought it would be prudent to spend some time trying out some different sails and familiarising ourselves with certain procedures without having the pressure of having to cover lots of miles in a day. And let’s face it, we can all benefit from some more practice at these kind of exercises. So we tootled out from Lagos marina and spent a very pleasant sunny, if not windy (unusually for this summer), afternoon on the Algarve raising and furling the gennaker and executing man overboard manoeuvres under engine and sail.

As most sailors fear, the greatest difficulty with a man overboard situation is not getting to the casualty but working out how to recover them back on board once they are next to the boat.

Oleu Pickup Sail

We have recently invested in a “Pickup Sail“, which is basically a large orange triangle made of strong sail cloth that can be clipped onto a halyard at the top and tensioned around the stanchions at the bottom, lowered into the water so that the man overboard can be manoeuvred into it and then can be raised to deck level by winching on the halyard.

This is billed as being a useful piece of kit for shorthanded sailors, or for a lighter crew member (e.g. girl) recovering a heavier crew member (e.g. geek), or a crew member who is either unconscious or too weak to pull themselves on board. We have already had discussions with various people about the ease of use and effectiveness of this piece of equipment, so we decided to get it out and investigate just exactly how we would go about using it should we ever need to do so.

Cap’n geek was removing the Pickup sail from its storage bag and somehow managed to drop the bag over the side. The girl grabbed the boat hook, but the bag was sinking quicker than it could be reached, when suddenly there was an enormous splash as Steve leapt over the side and swam down to grab the bag before it disappeared out of view. Quick thinking from Steve saved the bag (I don’t think anyone else was really prepared to save it!), and we had a real man overboard who we could recover with our new toy!

MOB Pickup 3

MOB Pickup 2            MOB Pickup 1

Steve, as a conscious casualty, was able to get himself into position to be recovered, and the geek monitored the lift as the girl hoisted the halyard on the which raising the bag to deck level. But deck level isn’t high enough to get the MOB on deck, so we kept winching to try to get him over the guard rails. However, once at deck level, the gap between the sail and the deck opened up and Steve who was already feeling pretty precarious felt as if he was in danger of falling out. We obviously hadn’t put enough tension on the straps at the bottom of the pick up sail.

So what did we learn?

  • That we probably need to mark with tape where the straps go round the stanchions so that when the Pickup sail is being deployed in a hurry we can get it in the right place to get the correct amount of tension on the straps.
  • That in a flat calm with a conscious casualty it is reasonably easy to get someone back on board (although in these conditions there are probably easier ways!).
  • That realistically we are going to need 2 or 3 people working together to retrieve a MOB and if the MOB is unconscious then in all likelihood someone else is going to have to go into the water or we will never get them into the Pickup sail.

So, although it’s a useful piece of kit it’s probably not the definitive answer to this problem.

Oh, and obviously we learnt that it’s better if you don’t drop things overboard ;-)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mark Moss August 31, 2014 at 18:50

Hey Steve, whilst your lounging around in the sun Ulula been busy but unfortunately we only placed 9th in the Commodores Cup (much to Nicks disgust) and 4th today in the Ladies Race.
Best regards to all from crew of Ulula IV

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