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sospenders.jpg (12049 bytes)I think the odds are fifty-fifty that if I end up in the water, my crew will be able to recover me alive. People have been known to drown at the dock. The best strategy is to never go over the side; however, clipping on is awkward and I seldom do it. This is a depressing thought but MOB histories verify this fact. Go to this link for more info.

We carry the usual safety equipment plus some. I always wear an inflatable PFD/harness with a strobe while underway. However, it is hard to convince some people to do so and I don't press the issue unless we encounter weather. I've found that it's easier to get people to wear the type III fishing vest because it is more comfortable. Even if you are wearing a PFD it is very hard to see a swimmer.

mustang_jacket.jpg (8508 bytes)Sometimes we also wear the very  comfortable Mustang Survival bomber jacket MJ6214. This is a great product, the extra insulation is welcome during Spring and Fall - it's just to warm to wear any other time. 

The water is so cold in the Great Lakes that it only takes about 5-10 minutes before the COB is unable to assist in the recovery. In addition, many of the people I sail with have limited sailing skills. It is not uncommon for people to drown during a recovery operation. What to do? 

The Lifesling
A recent Man-over-board study conducted in San Francisco Bay gives valuable information on equipment and techniques for recovery of crew. This study gives high marks to the Lifesling for MOB recovery. The Lifesling system has been tested and recommended by the US Coast Guard, the Naval Academy, and a number of sailing  organizations. More on this subject here.

lifesling_rescue2.jpg (45075 bytes)Using the Lifesling you deploy off the stern and sail/motor in circles around the MOB until he reaches the sling. This picture at left shows how I rig the lifesling on my boat. A quick tug on the flap and it's deployed directly off the stern. The disadvantage of the lifesling for inexperienced crew is that the recovery may require one or more jibes before you make contact with the MOB. 

Practical Sailor covered the Lifesling in their November & December 2005 issues and its use was discussed in recent issues of Sailing, Sail and other magazines. Go here for more information. 

Retrieval Lines
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There are literally dozens of different methods for getting a line to the MOB. I prefer something simple. There are many versions of the Throw Bag. This device is simple, reliable and uncomplicated. 

frisbouy.jpg (15001 bytes)A more recent development is the Frisby type device that can reach the swimmer as much as 100 feet away. Search the internet for Frisbouy, Res-Q-Disc, or Personal Retriever.

Getting the MOB aboard -- Deep Beam Reach. 
MOB.ht1.jpg (17316 bytes)Getting to the vicinity of the MOB quickly is critical. Many sailing schools teach the figure 8 method or the quick turn. A variation of these two methods is the "Deep Beam Reach". This MOB recovery technique returns the boat back upwind of the victim in the most direct method possible. The big advantage of this method is it does not require a jibe. Click HERE for more details about this technique. 

In most boats, the hardest part of a COB recovery is getting the COB over the rail. On the H260 the most obvious way to recover the COB is over the stern. However, this method has risks such as injuring the swimmer or fouling the prop. The way I've set up the Lifesling allows the crew to quickly deploy the sling. I don't think the Lifesling hoist is necessary.  

During practice, we've successfully used the port winch to haul the sling back over the stern, but I've never tried to do a rescue with a live person. I expect that unless the COB is assisting, it takes much longer than you would think to get the COB aboard.

Bottom line: the odds of getting an unconscious swimmer aboard any boat alive are not good. Too much can go wrong, and you have to have a lot of luck. A very sobering prospect. 

Here's a good link that covers training for COB recovery with the Lifesling.

Try reading the narratives of actual COB recoveries -- it will give make you think.