April 16, 2008
MOB – Man Overboard
Part of safe boating, regardless if you're the marine patrol, fire department, or even a recreational boater, is to always be careful on the water and take the necessary steps to be ready for anything that may happen. Today, I want to talk about things to think about should someone fall overboard and how to get a person back in the boat.
Obviously, the easiest and best way to deal with a Man Overboard (MOB) situation is to never have someone fall into the water in the first place. As skipper, to prevent a MOB you must be sure that everyone onboard is seated and knows how important it is to always hold on even at slow speeds, you must drive the RIB in such a way that minimizes sudden unexpected movements and accidents, and that you never venture out in conditions that aren't appropriate for your boat or those on board. Surprisingly, most MOBs occur at slow speeds when crew or skipper isn't paying attention.
So, if after taking all of these precautions you still have a MOB situation – what do you do? As I mentioned, most likely it will happen when you're moving slow, so if that's the case immediately shout "man overboard" so everyone is aware and turn the boat towards the person so that the engine is away from them. If you're moving fast, then immediately and safely slow down.
It's important once you begin maneuvering towards the victim to go as slowly as possible to minimize the chances of any additional accidents. Have someone onboard continuously point at the person in the water until you have moved the boat alongside the victim.
As you gain control of the vessel and begin the MOB procedure it's a good idea to issue a Mayday Call to the Coast Guard. They are there to respond and won't mind the precaution – they can always downgrade or cancel the call if you recover the person safely. What wouldn't be good is to call the Coast Guard after several minutes of unsuccessfully trying to retrieve the victim. Doing so would only increase the seriousness of the incident. Additionally, even if you've safely recovered the victim it's possible they may need medical attention, so having the Coast Guard on their way is a very good thing.
As you begin to approach the victim, you have two options to consider based on the conditions; Into the Wind or Beam On.
Into the Wind
Approach from about 4-5 boat lengths immediately downwind from the victim, carefully adjusting your throttle between neutral and forward so that your forward momentum is minimal. With this method, your goal is to bring the victim onboard over the windward bow. Once close, put the boat in neutral and drift alongside the victim, grab hold of them, and move the person along the boat to where you will be able to recover them. This approach works well for vessels with the operator's position forward, with good visibility at the bow, and in large seas so that waves to be taken head on. The only challenge with this is that it is easy to "lose" the victim under the bow.
Approach from upwind, stopping the boat side to the waves which will allow the boat to drift sideways onto the victim. Once alongside, grab hold of them and move the person along the boat to where you will be able to recover them. This method works well for boats where the victim could be "lost" under the bow. There is also less of a chance of driving over the victim and it provides some shelter to them as well. The downside is the boat may roll quite a bit in rough conditions and there is a risk that the boat will be blown over the person.
Once you have possession of the victim, how do you get them back on board? It can be much more challenging than you think, especially if the victim has been in the water for a long time or is unresponsive. The beauty of a RIB is that you most likely will be able to simply drag them over the side – especially if there are a couple of people onboard to help. I recommend pulling them in so that they are facing away from your. This keeps their feet away from the boat and if they have an inflatable lifejacket it keeps it out of the way. If you're alone and unable to pull them up and over the tube, you could deflate a section of the tube and then roll them in. There are also items like cradle systems that can assist in recovery. It's always good to think about how you will actually recover someone before heading out so that you can have the proper equipment on board to assist you.
When you get the victim on board, the danger may not be over. They may be hypothermic or need other medical attention. It is a good idea to get to shore ASAP to have the individual checked out.
Having someone go overboard is one of the most serious situations you can face on the water. First and foremost, prevent it, but if you make sure you have a plan in place to insure you can respond.
The information in this posting is intended only as a guide. It is strongly recommended that you attain professional boat operator's training. Some of the information for this posting was gathered from RIB International and Paul Glatzel.
Posted by ribcraftusa at April 16, 2008 01:01 PMBack To Index