Ask the experts
QMy wife and I sail a Winner 1010 cruiserracer. Often, especially when cruising, we sail dual handed reaching/running under our gennaker on a roller furler. Fortunately it has never happened, but every now and then we do discuss what to do with a MOB from that situation.
We use the chute up to 15-20 knots true wind. The boat then travels around 7-8 knots, even more with a surf, but the wind feels like a leisurely 8-10 knots over the deck. Nothing to worry about, or is it?
We have jackstays and lifelines, VHF is in the cabin, plotter in the cockpit etc. and we have a safety buoy and retrieval line on the pulpit.
Also we always wear our lifejacket with a PLB each. But what should the other do if one of us actually drops overboard?
To operate the gennaker roller-furler successfully you need to cover the chute with the mainsail, release the gennaker sheets, maybe even increase the halyard/ downhaul tension and practically have to steer to a dead run. All that will take a couple of minutes on autohelm before you can luff, start the motor and go back to search for the MOB.
The boat will have covered nearly a mile by then.
Would you have any better suggestions or different precautionary measures? Cees Verhoef, Groesbeek Netherlands Keith Colwell responds
As you say, downwind sailing can be deceptive. The risk of a MOB while sailing shorthanded, added with the complication of lowering a gennaker, highlights the importance of having a well planned and practiced recovery procedure in place.
Of course, the simple solution is not to fall overboard. One of the key recommendations in the 2012 MAIB report on the fatal loss of a MOB from the yacht Lion was to use short tethers (safety lanyard under 1m long) to prevent crew from falling over the side and being towed through the water. Three-point tethers allow the use of either a long or short lanyard.
Alternatively, it may be worthwhile considering having lanyards made to specific lengths for you and your wife and appropriate to the position of the jackstays on your boat that prevent you from going overboard. If possible, try to fit jackstays so they’re as close to the yacht’s centreline as possible.
Hooking on in heavy weather is usually an automatic response, but it can be easily neglected in the more benign conditions associated with flying a gennaker.
It is easy to lose sight of a MOB, especially when sailing short-handed. It can be key to a MOB’s survival to make an early Mayday call so I’d also suggest fitting a dual-station marine VHF (with DSC distress button) so the helmsman can use the radio from the helm position without going below. Make the call first, so help can be on its way as soon as possible, then sort out the gennaker. Starting the engine and engaging astern will help slow your speed. Time is of the essence, and it’s still not certain once you get back to the MOB that you’ll be able to get them on board without outside assistance.
Well done for wearing lifejackets with PLBs – if only more yachtsmen were so sensible. While the PLB will alert the emergency services that you are in distress, your location and identity (assuming it is correctly
registered) they have to be manually triggered. As well as sending a signal out on 406MHz, via satellite, they will also have a 121.5MHz homing signal. You can buy a 121.5MHZ radio direction finder to help you trace the MOB but they can be expensive or awkward to use.
I’d tend to a simpler solution such as also wearing an AIS MOB device (sometimes known as an AIS PLB) automatically triggered when the lifejacket inflates – which with an AIS receiver linked to your chartplotter can immediately show the MOB’s position, bearing and range from the boat. If the MOB does go out of sight, you’ll then have a method for relocating them. Range will be two to five miles depending on the height of the receiver’s antenna. An added benefit is that other nearby craft fitted with AIS receivers will also receive the device’s signal.
An Ais MoB locator device fitted to a lifejacket should help find a casualty
short tethers can stop someone falling overboard
a fixed vHF with aiS receiver can help locate a MOB