Ask the ex­perts

Practical Boat Owner - - Contents -

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

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