Man overboard: approaching the casualty
Remember the problems of picking up a mooring buoy under sail. Can you do it perfectly first time, every time, or is it a bit hit-or-miss? It is difficult to control boatspeed until you're trained by practice to find the boat’s ‘close reach window’. Without this essential clue, the manoeuvre usually ends up either with it becoming impossible to point the boat at the MOB because the boat is too close to the wind or, if she's not pointing high enough, impossible to dump enough wind from the main.
It is vital to learn how to get into the close reach window. If you’re too close on the wind, tack a boatlength or two to windward or, if the mainsail won’t dump, bear away before trying a steeper approach. The coup-de-grâce of this method is that, in any sort of blow, as soon as the boat has slowed down she will be blown downwind.
Rather than contemplating this struggle I believe it is far better, after all the necessary precautions, to start the engine. In a blow, the most immaculate stop lasts for less than half a minute. It is far simpler to drop the sails under control and then motor to windward of the MOB, and approach dead downwind. Most boats without sail will orientate themselves stern into the wind, or will do so if they are manoeuvred into pointing dead downwind. A small drogue will steady even the most recalcitrant of boats stern to the wind. This way the boat is easy to handle, although steering becomes sluggish. The engine can be used to speed up or slow down the boat's progress towards the MOB.
MYTH 8: The engine won’t start
This can happen, obviously, but it is far more likely that the only person who knows how to start the engine is bobbing around in the water. Label the essential items with the appropriate instructions, as is done for marine toilets, or, better still, train the crew how to start and stop the engine, and how to handle the boat under power. Crew need hands-on experience. Even the best kit is useless if no-one onboard has practiced using it.
Approaching under engine gives you more control but in all the panic, make sure there are no lines over the side