Crew Overboard

Return to Index of What Ifs?

Home | Site Map | Cruising | Logs | Seminar | Writing | Growing Old | Photos | Nuggets | Contact

          We learned that, in general, if a person falls overboard from a boat, they only have a 50% chance of being recovered. Consequently, it's important to take every precaution to prevent this from happening.


  1. No-one steps out of the cockpit unless another person is in it, day or night.
  2. When going out of the cockpit in other than calm weather, wear PFD. Attach tether to harness and jackline if it's at all rough.
  3. Always keep one hand for yourself. Do NOT hold onto the lifelines; use shrouds or fixed handholds.
  4. Always put on shoes when going forward from the cockpit.
  5. At night, the person on watch wears PFD with tether attached to cockpit padeye.
  6. Remember that if you go overboard you have a 50% recovery chance–so long as someone sees you go. If no-one sees you, you're dead.


  1. Alert all the crew, and pull the pin out of the MOM (Man Overboard Module) to deploy it.
  2. Helmsman immediately does a Quick Stop if possible. If going too slowly, or seas are too big, then do a Reach and Stop. (See 6 and 7 below)
  3. Press and hold the Nav/MOB button on the GPS, and then choose GoTo to keep a constant fix on the COB's position
  4. If the MOM doesn't deploy properly, throw overboard the DanBouy with Forespar lantern and whistle, and all the cockpit cushions
  5. One person (if available) keeps the COB in sight and shouts encouragement to him/her
  6. Quick Stop: Head into the wind and let sails backwind while the boat circles the COB
  7. Reach and Stop: Go into beam reach, count slowly to six, then tack and head back on broad reach to a spot 2 boat lengths downwind of the COB. When you are almost directly downwind, head into the wind, luff up, and stop the boat near the COB.
  8. Throw the throw-rope to the COB. If necessary, also throw the dinghy towline (yellow polypropylene).
  9. Drop the swim ladder, head into the wind near the COB and come down near him/her. If it's at all windy, come down on the windward side even if that's not where the swim ladder is.
  10. If you can't maneuver under sail, turn on the engine being very careful not to get the propellor anywhere near the lines or MOB. It is better to do it under sail.
  11. If the COB is unconscious or needs help, another person puts on PFD witha long line tied to the boat, and then--carrying flotation and a second line--swims to the COB to bring him/her back to the boat.
  12. Bringing COB back on board:
    1. COB climbs swim ladder, with or without assistance, if able;
    2. Drop a line over the side tied off at one end, and led to a winch on the other. The COB steps on this line while it is winched up. COB needs another line or hands to hang onto and must be able to keep legs straight feet spaced apart. (This is called the Elevator Method)
    3. COB is hoisted up using a halyard (like sack of potatoes) COB must be able to put MOM horseshoe round himself–or have it put around him/her, and attach halyard to MOM horseshoe lifting rings or to his/her harness;
    4. swing boom out over COB and put the running backstay tackle on the rear padeye to haul him/her up via the horseshoe or harness;
    5. Drop the storm jib in the water (attached to the boat at all 3 corners) and roll the COB onto the sail, then haul him/her up in the sail.


  1. If PFD doesn't inflate automatically, blow it up
  2. Do not try to swim, except to get to the MOM or retrieve the throw rope
  3. Put the MOM horseshoe under the arms and pull the quick connect strap. Pull on the pylon lanyard and get close to the pylon. Wrap your feet round the part of the pylon that's underwater with your arms round the upper part.
  4. If the MOM doesn't deploy, grab whatever flotation is available, and conserve energy. Get into the HELP position to maintain body heat
  5. Remember you have a strobe light and a whistle on your PFD. Use them if necessary.
  6. As soon as you get the throw rope, tie it onto the MOM lifting rings (or both harness rings) with a one-handed bowline (you've practiced this, haven't you?)


  1. Treat COB for shock and hypothermia
  2. Go to school on what happened and take preventive action for the future.



©2004 The Trouser Rollers. All rights reserved.
This page was last modified on:
August 9, 2009