Man Overboard!

Oliver Shaw

There are no universal right answers to this,  and the intention of this post is to start an informed conversation.

This is not a dinghy group,  but some of you nonetheless have massive dinghy experience and may have some ideas to contribute.

The starting point is that in  a few weeks' time I am to run the second iteration of the Advanced Cruiser Training Course that I have developed for the GP14 Class Association.  Since I understand that MOB drill is not taught at either RYA Level 1 or 2,  but only in certain of their Advanced courses,  I intend to include this;   and I then thought that it would be instructive to use the weighted dummy that my club use for MOB drill in our Powerboat training.   The prospect of recovering an unconscious adult from the water,  in a sailing dinghy,  is to my mind a matter of some dread,  and should the situation ever arise one urgently needs outside help;   hence the situation justifies a Mayday call.

However  ...   ...     

MOB is primarily a concern for yachtsmen rather than dinghy sailors,  and even there it is fortunately rare.     In dinghies it is even more rare  -  but nonetheless it does occasionally happen.    I myself have once been MOB,  in gale conditions,  and the boat was drifting downwind faster than I could swim.    My radio was aboard the boat;   ever since then I have worn it on my person  ...   ...    I was mightily relieved when I saw the lifeboat maroons go up.

On the rare occasions when MOB occurs in dinghies it is is even more rare for the casualty to be unconscious;   but one presumes it can nonetheless happen.    And this includes occasions when the casualty becomes MOB because of a medical episode causing him/her to lose consciousness in the first place.   I have once been involved in  such a situation (suspected heart attack),  as a Safety Boat Coxswain,  where the casualty collapsed into the bottom of the dinghy rather than overboard  -  but in different circumstances he could well have gone MOB.

I have the impression that most dinghy MOB training,  even in the relevant RYA Advanced courses,  concentrates on simply getting back to the casualty,  and tacitly assumes that he/she will still be conscious and able to assist in the process of then getting back onboard.

But how does one get a waterlogged 80-kg unconscious adult out of the water and back aboard a sailing dinghy?   Particularly since there may well be only a single person left aboard the dinghy;  and that single person may be a woman or a child.

Drop all sail,  and attempt to haul the casualty over the side?    That would seem to incur the serious risk of capsize in the attempt.

Or over the transom.  perhaps?   At best,  that might require massive strength,  which the remaining crewman (or woman,  or child) may well not have.

Or deliberate capsize,  tie the casualty into the boat,  then right her,  scooping up the casualty?   The might be the easiest method,  but there is serious potential risk of entanglement and entrapment.

This is why I am half expecting to advise my trainees that in such an event they need outside help,  fast,  and that they should be broadcasting a Mayday.    And the exercise may well serve only to demonstrate to them how almost impossible is the task without outside help.

But am I missing something?    

Any good ideas,  folks?


Oliver Shaw

Steve White has invited me to correct my statement that I understand that MOB recovery is not taught at RYA Level 1 or 2.

I did say that this was my understanding;  and I was going by the desperately limited information on course content available on their website.   Even on a check today,  on their recently updated website,  the only course content that I can find is contained in a downloadable document (attached),  which makes no mention of MOB recovery at any level until one reaches Seamanship Skills,  which they rate as an Advanced course.

I am happy to make the correction,  but if RYA fail to adequately publish the course content they can hardly complain if experienced practitioners get our facts wrong in assessing what the course contains!    I have no wish either to do the courses or to buy the books just in order to find out what they teach;   I expect the information to be readily accessible!

Steve writes that "The RYA syllabus for Level 2 includes a series of highly related boat manoeuvres including coming safely alongside a boat,  jetty,  buoy and MOB, to help develop boat handling skills. Furthermore the mandatory capsize drill requires participants to have theoretical and practical experience of getting a crew from the water into the boat.   Methods of recovering unconscious crew members are not discussed at RYA L2.

"(The picking up of a MOB first time is a standard sailing test of an RYA Dinghy Instructor-to-be. )

"I concede that the MOB is conducted with a half filled bottle or similar, and not a person.

"On the RYA Safety Boat syllabus, considerable time is spent on this subject, including practical experience of getting an unhelping person into a RIB or other safety vessel using a variety of methods."

I am happy to make this correction,  although it applies to only one detail (in one sentence) of what I wrote.