Join Date: Feb 2004
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Having had to do it for real a couple of times...All the figure 8's and j stops and such are great when you have a crew on board. If you were double handing and one of you has fallen off....(pretty hairy conditions and location, but at least it was daylight), then it is a case of de-powering the sails, firing up the motor, and just doing everything you need to do while NOT TAKING YOUR EYES OFF THE PERSON IN THE WATER.
getting them back on board is by far the hardest part. After less then 4 minutes in the water, the person was cold, weak and a little shocky and lacked the stregth and co-ordination to assist herself in climbing up much at all.
We did a midhsips brute-strength lift with the assistance of the boat hook...but if our positions had been reversed, she would have been towing me back to port as a fishing lure, because there was no way in hell she could have hauled me up the way I did her.
Lifelines...they help you before you go in...Once you are in the water, they are a huge pain in the ass barrier to getting an MOB back on the boat. If you can find the two seconds to throw the pelican hooks and slacken them as you are approaching the person, or if you can cut the soft-shackle binding them to the pushpit then DO IT if you think the person is in any real danger of not being able to just frolick up the ladder and laugh at their own clumsiness in falling off.
Windward or leeward side....Honestly, circumstance dependent. There is almost no default position, whatever the books tell you. We do a lot of recoveries with the Coast Guard boat, it has a diver's door in the side to assist and it is still nine kinds of pain in the butt to recover someone. Sea state almost more then wind is the deciding factor. Putting somene to windward of you means the boats greater windage is going to be blowing you away from them almost immedietaly...but if they can grab a line and hold it or in some other way become attached to the boat, this is actually the favoured side (in my opinion). Partly they get a lift from waves and if you can co-ordinate it just right you get a big help in the lifting them back into the boat department. Partly, they are not getting bashed by the boat between attempts...Which is a big part of it, getting clobbered by a whole lot of boat hull is not just something that happens at the stern, it happens anywhere.
Putting someone into the lee of the boat so that the boat moves down onto them is probably neccassary if they are uncontious, but it is going to make hauling them out even harder and the chances of the boat drifting completely down on them (especially witht he smooth lines of most sail hulls) is a real danger.
Unless you have a few crew on board, in which case you have extra muscle to brute force a rescue, telling yourself that you can rig a block and tackle form the boom and use the rig to bring them aboard is a fantasy...at least 90% of the time. The same applies to hanking a headsail onto the toerail and hammocking them back into the boat etc...It all takes more time and in serious waves and cold conditions and inclement weather etc...urgency and panic are likely to be waltzing around the decks in quickstep.
So what to do? If suddenly single handing, you ge back to them as quickly as possible without taking your eyes off them for more then a second (or not at all, by preference). You get them attached to the boat by some line (around the chest, under the arms, in a loop), cleat that line off. You have just bought yourself a minute or two, CALM DOWN. The first bit needed speed, this bit needs brain. TAKE THE FIVE SECONDS TO CALM DOWN, THEN FIVE TO THINK, it is the best investment you can make right now. break the problem of "rescue" down into its components and deal with them as such.
Everyone's boat is different, conditions are forever variable, time of day, visibility current and location (the incident I described had her going into the water in the middle of Melbourne's major shipping channel with about five big ships visible in the distance all tearing along it towards us with nowhere else to go. This makes time a little precious, over and above the cold water exposure etc...)...The key thing to train youself to be is adaptable and resourceful, because there is no BY THE NUMBERS solution except to keep your head and be able to think and use your resources.