My son and I sail mostly in warm waters and once a year we do MOB drills. This allows for building up his confidence in that (1) I will always come back and get him, (2) he needs to be calm and not panic, and (3) we both rehearse an MOB maneuver so it comes second nature when needed. The following few steps are basic in your practice but will vary depending on your boat:

• Keep the person in site all the time
• Throw a floating device to help the person float and mark their position
• Slow the vessel down and bring it to a stopping position while retrieving the MOB
• If on power, shut the engine off and bring the person into the boat
• Treating the person after recovery if needed

We had two occasions where friend's children fell on the water and while neither one was an emergency because they were in shallow and warm waters each with a life jacket, my son jumped in the water to help with the above procedures. If this was to happen under more critical conditions, I would not recommend jumping in the water becase now you have two people to retrieve rather than one. As Captain of your vessel, you get to make all the calls and instruct others how to help.

The bottom line is that if you practice under controlled conditions, your confidence level and that of your crew will increase and it may just come in handy when needed.

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Great idea's and points, this is something I'll have to practice once the weather warms up
Hola Manolo,
Excellent topic, and one that is very near and dear to me.
I'll be happy to help anyone here with questions and resources.
Two good places to start are the US Sailing Safety homepage and the ISAF Special Regulations for offshore racing. A good place to begin would be HERE
I personally practice MOB drills at least 60 times with various crews that I train for racing offshore every spring.
We train in all weather, with headsails & spinnakers, day & night in boats from 30 to 73 feet.
To race offshore one of the requirements is to have all the crew sign a document in the log book that all the crew have participated together doing the standard "Quick-Stop" maneuver. In my opinion, one time is not enough. The day before races like the Newport Bermuda race you see crews go out in 10 knots of wind practicing the "token" MOB Quick-Stop maneuver. After having done these maneuvers maybe 500 times (too many to count), there is always something that can go wrong, or be different each time.
If you've never done one of these maneuvers before, please please go and practice them in conditions that you are comfortable sailing in. Then work your way up to stronger breeze as you begin to get the idea.
For practicing I like using balled-up brown paper bags whom we always name "Oscar". Make them about the size of a person's head. If you aren't able to recover the paper bag, no serious loss, and they're biodegradable.
You'll be surprised how quickly Oscar disappears if there are any waves, or at night. And if Oscar sinks, then you took too long to get back to him.
On the ISAF Special Regulations pages you'll find the minimum safety equipment standards for offshore racing. There are a series of categories from 6 to 0 where 0 is for races like the Volvo Ocean Race.
It looks like we have a lot of reading to do now. (Sorry about that) But if you want to take your sailing seriously, and especially if you're a boat owner or captain, then knowing this stuff is essential to the safety of your crew and vessel.
I'm not asking everyone to go out and buy 20k worth of safety gear, but at least know what the standards are for the racing community to help gauge your risk. Some people go out with minimum safety equipment and they do fine. I've always said I'd rather be lucky than good, but solely relying on luck only works in Vegas.
Lets continue this tread with some questions or testimony of past experiences.

Thanks for adding such good comments to the original discussion. You have some excellent points in that one needs to practice in the same conditions where you expect to sail. The "Oscar" idea is great and links for additional info is awesome. We can only hope all sailors would take this topic more seriously. The evening drill is also a great idea.


We do a demonstration at our Safety at Sea Seminar in Annapolis specifically designed for the cruising couple that typifies a common circumstance of the macho husband going over while the wife is driving.
This situation occurs all to often with couples learning to sail.
The demonstration uses the LifeSling harness with "Oscar" wearing a survival immersion suit and a PFD.

"Oscar" goes overboard, Lady then turns the boat into the wind and tacks the boat in the "hove-to" position and deploys the lifesling toward Oscar and tosses another type 5 seat cushion floating device. Then she hits the MOB button on the GPS while retrieving a hand held VHF radio from the nav station. Then she douses or rolls up the headsail and makes a turn around Oscar where the trailing LifeSling in a manner that is typical for skiboat operators to put the tow rope onto the skier in the water where a sharp turn is needed to draw the towline toward Oscar.
The mainsail halyard is lowered and a spinnaker or spare headsail halyard is used to hook into the lifesling harness and then the lady uses a winch to grind up her wet Oscar.
All this takes about 3 minutes, where if the water is cold, is the longest 3 minutes that you may ever know.
Here is a great rescue story by Tor Pinney.
His blog is fun to read also; a very interesting character.
His advice on the radio watch is very good.
I also monitor 2182 on the HF radio when offshore.
The crew often find it annoying, and too often I find that "someone" has turned the radio off or down so low that it can't be heard. I assume that it's for when the off-watch is sleeping, but that's life at sea.
The sounds of the boat creeking, sails futtering when they're not trimmed right, loose gear being jostled, and the radios are all sounds that boats will make while sailing.
Manolo, I would definitely discourage your son from jumping into the water. The biggest problem is that it might become something he does instinctively and not at all the right thing to do at that moment. I heard of someone who did just that to save his dog, only to discover that he hadn't first lowered a boarding ladder and that there was no way to get back aboard - for him or the dog. Instinctive reactions can be dangerous things.

Agree. Under critical conditions he will not be allowed to jump in the water becase now you have two people to retrieve rather than one. The times when he did it, both were my prior approval. When children come on board, they need to understand that they don't make any decisions without the approval of the adult.Captain.




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