Man over­board: re­cov­er­ing the ca­su­alty

Yachting Monthly - - EXPERT ON BOARD - Myth 13: A wa­ter-soaked adult can be lifted with­out me­chan­i­cal as­sis­tance Myth 14: the MOB has to be lifted in the hor­i­zon­tal po­si­tion

rac­tice MOB drills are un­re­al­is­tic if an in­signif­i­cant load such as a fender is used. Not only can it re­in­force the delu­sion that the res­cue is pos­si­ble with the boat mov­ing, but also there is no ap­pre­ci­a­tion by the res­cuer of the pull that is gen­er­ated by the res­cue gear in real con­di­tions. P

Myth 12: the MOB can be lifted aboard us­ing a boathook

Re­call some of the strug­gles you've had with a boathook when try­ing to pick up a moor­ing buoy. Re­cov­er­ing a per­son from the wa­ter is a bat­tle and train­ing is re­quired to deal with the sig­nif­i­cant weight in­volved. A good sub­sti­tute MOB is to use four of five 20-litre wa­ter con­tain­ers roped to­gether, each three­quar­ters full of fresh wa­ter.

Life­jack­ets need to be fit­ted with an eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble lift­ing loop. There are ac­ces­sories like the MOB Life­saver and Os­carLine, but a sim­ple loop of strong line tied around the life­jacket’s har­ness be­hind the neck would suf­fice. Then it is pos­si­ble to hold the loop taut with the boathook and use a pole-mounted snap hook to clip onto the loop, much like those used to pick up rings on moor­ings. On most yachts, the an­chor wind­lass is the only winch pow­er­ful enough to lift an MOB. All other stan­dard winches are not man enough for most crew. Re­call the strug­gle of try­ing to hoist some­one up the mast with a winch. An MOB will be sod­den and heav­ier, and may be un­able to as­sist. The winch is a poor sub­sti­tute for a block and tackle. The greater the me­chan­i­cal ad­van­tage, the bet­ter. The block and tackle en­gine-lift­ing gear sold by car main­te­nance shops is ideal. The line is long enough to reach the wa­ter from all but the high­est free­boards. If needed, the lift­ing line can be pulled in via a winch. There is no in­creased risk of heart at­tack if the MOB is lifted ver­ti­cally. In most wa­ters of the world, death from hy­pother­mia oc­curs long be­fore any dan­ger­ous pe­riph­eral vas­cu­lar bed fail­ure de­vel­ops. The whole con­cept of pe­riph­eral vas­cu­lar fail­ure be­ing caused by sur­face-type im­mer­sion is a myth. At the sur­face, it would take days to de­velop.

Myth 15: Al­ways wear a life­jacket

This ad­vice should be rewrit­ten as fol­lows: al­ways wear a life­jacket in which you can swim. I favour a buoy­ancy aid, or PFD. An

in­flated life­jacket may keep you afloat if you can’t swim, but it ren­ders the MOB less ca­pa­ble of mean­ing­ful self-help or co­op­er­a­tion with the res­cuers. If you must wear an au­to­matic life­jacket, learn how to op­er­ate the dump valve on the man­ual in­fla­tion tube. This way, the life­jacket can be de­flated suf­fi­ciently to al­low you to help your res­cuers to res­cue you.

Myth 16: Crew on deck can get a line or sling around an un­con­scious MOB

Most res­cue de­vices won’t help you re­cover an un­con­scious ca­su­alty, so what to do? A strong crew can de­ploy a pow­er­ful swim­mer in a wet­suit, at­tached to the boat at all times and wear­ing per­sonal lift­ing gear. The swim­mer needs a climb­ing har­ness and a good buoy­ancy aid to sup­port the MOB. A long line through a block on the spin­naker hal­yard al­lows a good range for the swim­mer and easy re­cov­ery. This line should be at­tached to the back of the swim­mer's safety har­ness. The swim­mer can sup­port the MOB dur­ing the tow to the boat. Un­less you have a pow­er­ful crew, re­cover the swim­mer first. You will need their help to lift the dead weight.

Oth­er­wise there is the for­lorn hope of a re­cov­ery sling. The sling needs to be held open to get it un­der the arms and around the body of the un­con­scious MOB and their life­jacket, but it should be able to col­lapse to hold onto the MOB once it is in po­si­tion. I have de­signed a col­lapsi­ble re­cov­ery loop that might just work.

Myth 17: A stan­dard board­ing lad­der is use­ful in MOB re­cov­ery

The rigid lad­ders fit­ted as stan­dard to many boats are far too short. It is dif­fi­cult or im­pos­si­ble, wear­ing sod­den cloth­ing, to get a foot onto the bot­tom rung. These lad­ders need at least two more rungs.

The sight of a rigid lad­der de­scend­ing as the boat rolls is fright­en­ing. This ter­ror is only ex­ceeded by the thwack of a crash­ing su­gar scoop. Far bet­ter a long, flex­i­ble lad­der with weighted lower rungs. Mine has a lead-loaded lower rung, good hand­holds in each rung, and ex­tends at least five feet be­low the sur­face.

An in­flated life­jacket will se­verely re­strict both your move­ment and your vi­sion

RIGHT: Noel's life­jacket has a line tied to the back of the har­ness with a loop at the end

Is there any med­i­cal rea­son to re­cover an MOB hor­i­zon­tally? Noel, a re­tired pro­fes­sor of anatomy, says no

The wind­lass is the most pow­er­ful winch on the boat but you must re­hearse your method to make it work

Kieran was able to board but it’s safest to use the lad­der with the hoist or a hal­yard as a safety line, to take some of the sod­den weight of the MOB

A sprung sling de­ployed at­tached to a boathook. Pulling on the pole side string de­creases the size of the loop

The bot­tom step of Noel’s lad­der is weighted, and hangs 5ft be­low sea level when tied to the to­erail

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