Man over­board: se­cur­ing the ca­su­alty

Yachting Monthly - - EXPERT ON BOARD - MYTH 10: A towed sling will fol­low in the boat’s wake

You’ve man­aged to get the boat back to the MOB. What next? Many sailors’ as­sump­tions are dan­ger­ously wrong.

MYTH 9: You can throw the MOB a line and pull him along­side a mov­ing boat

This is much eas­ier said than done. Any­one who has ex­pe­ri­enced wa­ter ski­ing will know how hard it is to hang on with the loads de­vel­oped by a tow. If the boat is mov­ing, it is only pos­si­ble to tow an MOB if they are at­tached to the res­cue line. Most swim­mers can only hang on at speeds be­low three knots. It is made more dif­fi­cult for the MOB be­cause his sod­den cloth­ing and in­flated life­jacket will make it much harder for him to adopt the op­ti­mum po­si­tion for a tow. This is dan­ger­ous. The wind can carry the sling side­ways. A drogue is needed to keep the tow line taut. Un­for­tu­nately, most com­mer­cially avail­able small drogues don’t work well be­cause there is no pro­vi­sion for keep­ing the mouth of the drogue open.

A ring of springy wire sewn into the aper­ture is my so­lu­tion. It can be squeezed for stor­age and will de­ploy when the drogue is de­ployed.

MYTH 11: An MOB wear­ing an in­flated life­jacket can get into a sling

The awk­ward po­si­tion and the large, in­flated col­lar of a life­jacket make this a dif­fi­cult ma­noeu­vre even for a com­pe­tent swim­mer. It is even more chal­leng­ing to get into a ring lifebelt.

The haz­ard is that the sling ends up around the neck and the MOB ei­ther has their neck bro­ken, or is towed with the dire con­se­quence of drown­ing. To avoid this haz­ard and to help the ca­su­alty get into it, the sling should be floated down open. This way it is pos­si­ble, even when you're wear­ing an in­flated life­jacket, to pass the strop around the waist be­low the life­jacket and se­cure the free end.

This of course does not elim­i­nate the tow­ing risk. Any res­cue line at­tached to the boat must be fit­ted with quick-re­lease snap shack­les at both ends so ei­ther the crew or the MOB can re­lease it. The line should float and both ends should be fit­ted with floats. If the line has to be dumped by the crew, the sec­ond pass will be made eas­ier by hav­ing the float­ing line to as­sist in re­cov­er­ing the MOB.

A sling has to be buoy­ant and easy to get into. A so­lu­tion is to put a 3m (10ft) strop around the out­side of a horse­shoe lifebuoy. Then it is easy to get into the loop and en­joy the added buoy­ancy.

LEFT: Though he’s def­i­nitely in the sling, Kieran hasn’t man­aged to get the horse­shoe around him. They are not a help­ful shape

Note the open drogue, a sling round the horse­shoe with an easy-re­lease clip if be­ing towed and a 30m line with re­flec­tive tape for vis­i­bil­ity at night in a can­is­ter

De­spite his in­flated life­jacket, Kieran eas­ily passed the sling around his back and could see the clip to re­fas­ten it

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