Editor’s Note: At the time of the composition of this article, the United States was in “Shelter in Place” mode due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Though some of the restrictions have eased, the message of this article continues to apply.
It was a great day sailing and another majestic sunset. Rounding the bend heading for our slip, I was thinking about relaxing with a glass of Malbec. Then there was a cry for help on the radio. Someone went overboard, and they didn’t know how to get them back on the boat. We had no idea who they were – power or sail? Worse yet, they had no idea where they were either, except near one of the islands. Big help that is – Boston Harbor has 34 islands and peninsulas. We were too far away to turn back and help. Hopefully there’s a boat close by to help. Just as we were about to dock, there was another boat crying the same thing. Another Man Overboard (MOB).
According to the USCG website (https://www.uscgboating.org), in 2018, Falls overboard was the 5th primary type of accident for boaters with 274 accidents, 159 deaths and 120 injuries.
Picking Up MOB Skills While Shelter-in-Place
Being that we’re all stuck in the house during the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s a great time to study MOB drills. Watch YouTube videos with your spouse/partner and have a discussion on the best maneuver that works for your boat. Practice the moves like you would playing a game of charade. It’s a good idea to keep this procedure in that safety notebook for future reference. Come up with hand signals that work for both of you. It’s hard to hear someone yelling; especially with the engine running.
Put a plan in place for once your State allows social distancing on boats. Get out there and practice. After all, once they lift the “Shelter-in-Place”, you’ll be spending more time on the water. Lots of day sails with your long-lost friends and a few week-long trips are on the calendar with both friends and family.
Does the boat have a life sling? MOB buttons on GPS? Red Distress button on your VHF radio? A flotation device? Whether you have a life sling on your boat or not, it’s a good idea to watch a video and learn/practice how to use it. As for MOB drills, if you plan on sailing often go out and practice MOB drills with a flotation device in the water. Then practice some type of rescue, under sail and with the engine on.
Being suddenly-in-command is a lot of pressure; having your mate go overboard certainly adds to it. Every minute counts; to rescue them. First thing is to take a couple deep breaths, then yell as loud as possible, “Man Overboard”. If there is someone else on the boat besides you have them find the person who fell over and keep pointing at him/her until rescued. Throw a flotation device to the person to help them either grab it or as a second marker. If your GPS has a MOB button, push it. Also hit the red Distress button on your VHF radio.
Most important! Find out if anyone else on your boat can start the engine, run the boat or shut it down. This includes the VHF radio – don’t rely on a mobile phone. Cell reception on the water doesn’t work for everyone. Practice talking on the radio using the Automated Radio Checks (ARC). Know where the lifejackets are and the safety notebook you prepared.
Remember, the key here is not to panic when you’re suddenly in command. It doesn’t do you or anyone else on the boat any good.
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