About twelve years ago, I was out sailing on a J/24 on Buzzards Bay. I was crewing for a friend who had broken her leg. Kim's leg was in a fiberglass cast and she had a big plastic bag over it, and she was on the helm, and I was on the bow, working the spinnaker pole.
The wind shifted and broached the boat. She ended up in the water, and I didn't... so I dropped the spinnakker and then jumped back in the cockpit and brought the boat around, under just the mainsail, in a figure eight and along side her. I didn't throw the cockpit cushions (Type IV PFDs) since they had gone over the side with her and she had them and her vest on... so sinking wasn't going to be a problem.
I had to use the spinnaker halyard to haul her soggy butt back in to the boat. She ended up having to get a new cast put on, and I ended up with a broken right pinky...still have no idea how I broke it. The plastic bag around the cast was a big problem, since it had filled up with quite a bit of water.
I wish we had had a Lifesling or some other type of hoisting harness, instead of using a bowline in the spin halyard. You get a lot better support for the person in the water with a harness or lifesling than you do with just a spin halyard, and you have a much better attachment point.
Granted, were weren't in much danger, being the middle of summer in fairly warm waters at the time... but the incident taught me a lot about wanting to keep people on the boat, rather than have to chase them down after they fall off.
A few of things that were important.
First, both of use were wearing PFDs, Type III waterskiing vests, given it was fairly gusty and we were on a relatively small boat.
Second, the Type IV PFDs were in the cockpit and easily deployed... too easily in this particular case.
Third, we were lucky that neither of was seriously injured in the broach. Aside from the pinky and a few assorted bruises, we were okay.
Fourth, either of us was skilled enough to sail the boat single handed, and would have been able to get back to the other. Granted, she might have had a bit more trouble getting the spinnaker down than I did, given her leg, and probably a bit more trouble getting me back on board, as I outweighed her by thirty or forty pounds...
The last point is very important IMHO. It doesn't matter how many crew you have aboard if they're not able to handle the boat well enough by themselves to get back to you, if you fall overboard.
On my current boat, which is a lot bigger and more stable than a J/24, I don't require the use of vests unless the wind or chop has picked up, or visibility has dropped.
Most of the PFDs on my boat are SOLAS approved and have whistles, strobes and reflectors on them. (I do have some Type III vests for when I have people visiting for party on the harbor, and for use in the dinghy.) I also have one Type IV throwing cushion, a 70' heaving line stored in the cockpit, and a LifeSling2 mounted on the aft pushpit the boat. The Lifesling2 is already tied to the stern pushpit stanchions, so all that needs to be done is throw it to the person in the water.
I have jacklines on my boat and require the use of tethers, harnesses and jacklines, when out at night, in bad conditions or sailing single-handed. BTW, my definition of single-handed is the one I use above...anytime where I do not have a crew capable of doing a proper COB rescue, should I fall in.
Fortunately, I haven't had to use any of the above resuce gear, and I hope it stays that way. I hope this helps. I am in the process of making a nice COB pole, using a buoy I picked up on the beach at Lovell's Island this spring.
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You know what the first rule of sailing is? ...Love. You can learn all the math in the 'verse, but you take
a boat to the sea you don't love, she'll shake you off just as sure as the turning of the worlds. Love keeps
her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.
—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)
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