Man overboard is one of the most common boating emergencies. Just like on land, accidents and emergencies can happen at sea, however, you could be miles away from any help and the sea is much more unpredictable than solid ground, so it’s important to know the correct actions to take in the case of man overboard.
Brief your crew on the procedure
Whilst life jackets are recommended for all passengers on boats are moving, they are not mandatory in the UK, and a lot of people neglect to wear them regardless of their swimming capability. Even if you are a capable swimmer and you go overboard, it can quickly become a worrying scenario if you land in a strong current, so it pays for everyone on board to know the correct procedures.
• Whoever notices the person fall into the water needs to shout, “Man overboard!” to alert the skipper.
• Press MOB on your GPS. Most boat GPS units come with a M.O.B option which will automatically mark a waypoint at the current location, allowing a ‘go to’ navigation line to take you back to the MOB.
• Take your boat back to the MOB, ensuring that you designate someone to keep constant watch on them and direct you towards them safely.
• When approaching the MOB, do not get too close and keep the propeller away from them at all times.
• if you have a life ring or throw line and the MOB is fully conscious, it will be easier to reel them in from a distance than try to bring the boat too close.
• Alternatively, if the MOB is unconscious or injured, then someone will need to conduct a rescue. Before putting anyone in the water, ensure that they are wearing a lifejacket and are securely attached to a life ring or sling with a rope attached - don't put the rescuer at risk themselves!
• When the MOB is approaching the boat, make sure you take the boat out of gear and turn off the near-side engine.
• In calm seas, use the boarding ladder or swim platform to get the MOB back onboard.
• In rough seas, using the swim platform can be too dangerous. Emergency ladders are a safe way for the MOB to get back onboard.
• If the situation is too dangerous for your crew to handle, then send out a Mayday call.