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Old 03-20-2010
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MOB / COB Procedures for the Short-Handed

Had a good discussion today about MOB / COB procedures for husband and wife crews during a RYA First Aid course. The instructor had participated in recovery tests, and he wasn't positive about the results.

(He wasn't even positive about sugar scoop sterns, noting that they can act like hammers on people in the water. He noted that in some tests the crews moved the person overboard up to the shrouds for the lift-out even if they had a sugar scoop stern.)

First of all, the challenge of a wife recovering an overboard husband is not a simple task. In addition to doing a short stop, figure eight, or similar maneuvers to return to the COB (and dropping sails, etc.), the bigger challenge may be the recovery of the person into the boat before hypothermia makes the person in the water all but comatose.

I've spent about 25 minutes in the water here (around 6 degrees C) in a full wetsuit, and I was amazed by the cold. I was ready to be out after that-- and being in full sailing kit would have been a lot worse. The instructor said that he had "hit the water" in a test fully clothed, and after 20 minutes he was unable to help in his own recovery in any way.

(Side note: in the UK, nearly all the boats I've been on have had the life lines secured at the aft of the boat with many strands of thin line-- not mechanically connected to the pushpit. The line is there so that it can be quickly cut to lower one or both life lines in a COB situation. In the all the videos below, both lifelines are still up.)

So, one way for a recovery is the elevator method:



This looks fine, but others report that it takes a fully alert and agile crew member to handle it. This means that even in warm water, a less than agile crew member may not be able to pull this off.

A second way is using a vertical life with a life sling:



Our instructor today was down on this method for two reasons. First, in his testing, it took four yachtmasters around 35 minutes to rig all the blocks on he end of the boom to make this work. (Imagine a spouse doing this alone this while also managing the boat alone in rougher conditions.) Secondly, if a person has been in cold water for some length of time (15 minutes or longer), the vertical lift method can cause a rush of blood downward that can trigger a heart attack. This occurred more than once when helicopters used to do rapid vertical lifts of victims-- some were doa.

Another method involves two strops and a more horizontal lift:



This looks more comfortable, and safer, but the set up looks complicated and the person in the water may need to be pretty active and focused. As the video notes, more blocks were needed to enable a woman to winch the person aboard.

With all of these conditions, it's not clear that there's an obvious solution. Even launching the liferaft immediately, while the person in the water can still pull himself aboard may not solve the recovery back into the main boat.

Anyway, still thinking about this. Has anyone tried any of the purpose-built recovery sails? Here's an example:

Aladdins Cave Chandlery Ltd Product of the Month February 2007 - Ocean Safety KIM Pick Up Sail









On the plus side, the set up looks more simple. On the down side, a simple halyard winch may or may not be enough for the lift. Also, I wonder if it it would be easy or hard to move the person into it in rougher conditions with only one person on the boat...

The instructor today noted that they had tested this type of recovery by putting a main sail into the water, but it took so long to pull the sail out of the track, etc, that it didn't seem feasible. Water caught in the sail can also affect the person being rescued if they roll face down during the procedure.

So, the mesh of the recovery sail and the faster set up might help, but I wonder if others have tested this.
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Last edited by Jim H; 03-20-2010 at 03:50 PM.
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