Man Over Board (MOB)
May 18, 2018

You’ve just tacked on a perfect 15 knot, slightly overcast sailing day with your friends.  Soaking up the sun, you watch your sails fill, heeling the boat at a sturdy 30 degrees.  Water slaps against the hull and your feel the rudder’s vibrations humming against your hand on the tiller as you glide across the water.

One of your trusty crew is sitting high on the windward side.  He just got off a 12 hour shift and the warm sun has relaxed him to an almost comatose state.  He starts to nod off as you call out to the crew for a gybe. The boom swings around and connects solidly with the back of your buddy’s torso, sweeping him into the water… MAN OVER BOARD!! Panicked, your eyes dart from the sail, to the hull filled with throwables, to your friends staring at you in shock.  You’ve completely forget what to do to recover them out of the water as you try to fight through the panic quickly swelling in your chest.

Thankfully, moments like these don’t happen very often.

Usually, the real MOB (man over board) looks more like your favorite hat. You know, that trusty sidekick that has given you shade for many years, been through every grill out, blow out, and big catch. You know, that hat, the one that has fallen off into the water and is slowly sinking, swallowed into the murky waters of the Potomac never to be seen again.

What can we use to remember everything that needs to be happen to successfully save your trusty hat or, more importantly, your fallen crew?
All you need to do to remember to save a life or a hat is the acronym “YTPRC!”  Yeah, it is kind of an awkward acronym, (I did not come up with it) but at least remember the actions. It could save a life.

YELL, “man overboard.” This alerts everyone that someone has fallen off the boat and immediate action is required. Stop laughing, stop taking pictures, stop everything on the boat except saving your floating friend.

THROW a flotation device to the person in the water, even if that person beat Michael Phelps swimming in band camp.  Yes, that throwable square flotation device your using as a seat cushion. It’s time to give it up; it was made for better things.

POINT to the victim in the water and keep them in your line of sight. The helmsman on the tiller needs to focus on steering and the high vantage point helps them navigate precisely. A wave can easily hide a person in the water.

RESCUE the victim using the figure eight method. How? Immediately turn to a beam reach, get about 2.5 boat lengths away, turn upwind, and tack. Turn to a broad reach and aim slightly behind and turn up after passing them, causing the boat to drift in irons. Pick them up on the leeward side. Getting the person out of the water quickly and safely could mean life or death, especially if there may be a medical emergency or injury.

CALL for help, if needed. Sometimes a person falling off a boat can get injured falling into the water. Always be responsible for everyone onboard, no matter their experience or qualifications. If things are really grim and you are hooked up through radio, remember station 16 is the coast guard.

Knowing the skills you need to perform a successful rescue is about preparation and understanding exactly what to do in the moment. Learn the MOB steps and have them always in the back of your mind, just in case. Oh, and if your favorite hat sinks to the bottom of the Potomac River to become a crab house, at least you looked like a pro trying to rescue it. It was probably time for a new hat anyway.


-Northern Virginia Sailing School

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