GP14 Sailing Forums Forum Man Overboard!

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    • #22214
      Oliver Shaw

      There are no universal right answers to this,  and the intention of this post is to start an informed conversation.

      The starting point is that in  a few weeks’ time I am to run the second iteration of the Advanced Cruiser Training Course that I have developed for the Class Association.  Since I understand that MOB drill is not taught at either RYA Level 1 or 2,  but only in certain of their Advanced courses,  I intend to include this;   and I then thought that it would be instructive to use the weighted dummy that my club use for MOB drill in our Powerboat training.   The prospect of recovering an unconscious adult from the water,  in a sailing dinghy,  is to my mind a matter of some dread,  and should the situation ever arise one urgently needs outside help;   hence the situation justifies a Mayday call.

      However  …   …     

      MOB is primarily a concern for yachtsmen rather than dinghy sailors,  and even there it is fortunately rare.     In dinghies it is even more rare  –  but nonetheless it does occasionally happen.    I myself have once been MOB,  in gale conditions,  and the boat was drifting downwind faster than I could swim.    My radio was aboard the boat;   ever since then I have worn it on my person  …   …    I was mightily relieved when I saw the lifeboat maroons go up.

      On the rare occasions when MOB occurs in dinghies it is is even more rare for the casualty to be unconscious;   but one presumes it can nonetheless happen.    And this includes occasions when the casualty becomes MOB because of a medical episode causing him/her to lose consciousness in the first place.   I have once been involved in  such a situation (suspected heart attack),  as a Safety Boat Coxswain,  where the casualty collapsed into the bottom of the dinghy rather than overboard  –  but in different circumstances he could well have gone MOB.

      I have the impression that most dinghy MOB training,  even in the relevant RYA Advanced courses,  concentrates on simply getting back to the casualty,  and tacitly assumes that he/she will still be conscious and able to assist in the process of then getting back onboard.

      But how does one get a waterlogged 80-kg unconscious adult out of the water and back aboard a sailing dinghy?   Particularly since there may well be only a single person left aboard the dinghy;  and that single person may be a woman or a child.

      Drop all sail,  and attempt to haul the casualty over the side?    That would seem to incur the serious risk of capsize in the attempt.

      Or over the transom.  perhaps?   At best,  that might require massive strength,  which the remaining crewman (or woman,  or child) may well not have.

      Or deliberate capsize,  tie the casualty into the boat,  then right her,  scooping up the casualty?   The might be the easiest method,  but there is serious potential risk of entanglement and entrapment.

      This is why I am half expecting to advise my trainees that in such an event they need outside help,  fast,  and that they should be broadcasting a Mayday.    And the exercise may well serve only to demonstrate to them how almost impossible is the task without outside help.

      But am I missing something?    

      Any good ideas,  folks?


    • #22215
      Oliver Shaw

      Response from an experienced sailor on another forum:

      Missing nothing I think, mayday call and securing the casualty in some way must be your first priorities. Better surely that a lifeboat arrives to an upright boat with capable person on board and casualty in water than capsized boat and two casualties in water. 

      “Remember the other key is delivering a useful mayday – identity, position, number of persons is priority. When you tell the coastguard there’s a person in the water the operations room comes alive and things happen fast, with good reason.”



    • #22216
      Oliver Shaw

      Steve White has invited me to correct my statement that I understand that MOB recovery is not taught at RYA Level 1 or 2.

      I did say that this was my understanding; and I was going by the desperately limited information on course content available on their website. Even on a check today, on their recently updated website, the only course content that I can find is contained in a downloadable document (attached), which makes no mention of MOB recovery at any level until one reaches Seamanship Skills, which they rate as an Advanced course.

      I am happy to make the correction, but if RYA fail to adequately publish the course content they can hardly complain if experienced practitioners get our facts wrong in assessing what the course contains!   I have no wish either to do the courses or to buy the books just in order to find out what they teach;   I expect the information to be readily accessible!

      Steve writes that “The RYA syllabus for Level 2 includes a series of highly related boat manoeuvres including coming safely alongside a boat, jetty, buoy and MOB, to help develop boat handling skills.   Furthermore the mandatory capsize drill requires participants to have theoretical and practical experience of getting a crew from the water into the boat.   Methods of recovering unconscious crew members are not discussed at RYA L2.

      “(The picking up of a MOB first time is a standard sailing test of an RYA Dinghy Instructor-to-be. )

      “I concede that the MOB is conducted with a half filled bottle or similar, and not a person.

      “On the RYA Safety Boat syllabus, considerable time is spent on this subject, including practical experience of getting an unhelping person into a RIB or other safety vessel using a variety of methods.”

      I am happy to make this correction, although it applies to only one detail (in one sentence) of what I wrote.



    • #22218

      Following with interest as I turn my attention from building a GP14 toward being able to sail her, and safely.

      My reason for building the dinghy is to create memories for my 3 youngest grandchildren all aged 2yrs  8m. at the moment.   My background contains 16 years of windsurfing being mostly from using Longboards where we sail all points of the compass with the longest journey sailed being a circumnavigation of the Isle of Sheppey.  Later this year I will be attending the RYA level 1 and then hopefully the level 2 courses so I should have first hand experience on the MOB procedures.

      When windsurfing I learnt the hard way when once sailing mid winter in the Solent with failing light I became separated from my board with wind taking the board one way and the tide taking me in the opposite. Nobody on shore to help so after saying goodbye to everybody I started to paddle and kick my way slowly with and across the tide until I touched terra.  The Lesson learnt that time was Do Not Let Go of the Boom but an even better rule was to Always sail with a buddy and this has been a rule I have stuck to ever since.  But even that rule can come unstuck as once when sailing with an 80 year old buddy again in the Solent off Leap whilst returning to Calshot I passed his board with no sign of my buddy. I eventually found him 100 mtrs down tide but instead of staying with him and at his behest I headed in the opposite direction down wind towards his board. This resulted in a spectacular catapult over the front of my board but I remembering my lesson Do Not Let Go of the Boom this resulted in sustaining two fractured ribs from the impact on the mast as I was swung over.  Thanks to a passing racing Yacht, the RNLI and a passing Gin palace all was well.

      I would have thought the best way to stay safe on the water in a Dinghy would be as I said above to sail in company (with a buddy) which is surely what cruising is about. But even then nothing is assured which is the point of my above ramblings.  With Racing I assume safety cover is always provided.

      So Following with interest.



    • #22219
      Oliver Shaw

      Agreed,  sailing with a buddy is a useful safety precaution,  and it also makes the activity enjoyably sociable.

      But a requirement always to have a buddy available can be very limiting.    I greatly enjoy sailing with friends;   but nonetheless a majority of my sailing is single-handed,  if only because of limitations on when (and where) friends are available to sail with me.

      The very name of my erstwhile highly bespoke cruising GP14,  built for me in 2005/6,  A Capella,  was deliberately and appropriately chosen.   As well as reflecting my other great passion in life,  music,  a capella is the musical term for a group of singers singing entirely unaccompanied,  without the security of an instrumental accompaniment and wholly responsible themselves for keeping on track and at pitch and in tune.    Entirely appropriate,  therefore,   for a cruising dinghy that would often be sailing unaccompanied,  without the support of a large fleet or a safety boat,  and wholly responsible for her own safe conclusion of her voyaging.




    • #22220

      Hi Oliver,

      Totally agree with your outside correspondent re not capsizing the boat. It can work well with an active person and the “scoop” method of righting a capsize, but the prospect of two people, one incapacitated, in the space between the boom and the hull is horrifying. Without the presence of an inordinate amount of masthead buoyancy, the most likely outcome is two people underneath an inverted boat. Calling for assistance even before contacting the victim would seem to be logical, followed by safely securing him/her to the boat and taking account of the difference between buoyancy aid and lifejacket with regard to keeping the head above water.

    • #22222
      Frank whitley

      We are of course assuming that an unconscious casualty in the water, once finally back alongside the dinghy is still breathing.  Hopefully with a good lifejacket they will have been kept not only face up, but well clear of the water also.  I’m not sure that most dinghy sailors are necessarily equipped for that worst case MOB scenario…

    • #22224
      Oliver Shaw

      Good point.

      If wearing only a buoyancy aid one may need to attempt to address keeping the face out of the water when securing him alongside.

      The choice of buoyancy aid or lifejacket for dinghy sailing is not entirely one-sided;    a lifejacket will turn you onto your back and keep your face out of the water,  but this means that it will make it well-nigh impossible for you to right the boat and climb back aboard.   That is why most dinghy sailors,  myself included,  normally choose buoyancy aids;   although we will often choose lifejackets for yacht sailing.

      I have the impression,  but cannot confirm,  that at least some of those few dinghy sailors who venture seriously offshore (such as Frank & Margaret Dye,  were they to be still doing it today) choose lifejackets.

      I am a little surprised that we don’t have a dual-purpose flotation device,  in the form of a buoyancy aid which incorporates an inflatable chest bladder and collar which can be inflated on demand (either by mouth when in the water or by manual trigger).



    • #22247
      Simon Heath

      Hi first post from me as new member. Just done my L2 so can confirm MOB is definte part of it, practising downwind and return leg, filling and spilling.

      However, its been correctly pointed out retrieving a bouy with a 5kg weight isnt the same as picking up someone who is twice your weight and unconscious.

      I’d like to suggest something else for consideration… a routine for what happens if the competent sailor falls overboard when the passengers are non sailors. Part of your shore based safety briefing before taking anyone out.

      As well as to keep pointing at me I’ve taught my 7 yr old daughter to release all the sheets and keep her head down as the boom might flap around a bit, but the boat should come to a stop quite quickly and I’ll swim to her if conscious. If I’m not conscious I think its going to be a bad day. So next lesson is thinking about how to make a distress wave (slow arms to upright) without getting hit by the boom.

      Although im inland, based in Tamworth, plan is to get out on Poole harbour as soon as I’ve done my VHF and navigation courses as my parents live down there and know where the public slips are. So safety is always on my mind. Hence why her and wife are now enrolled on courses 😉

      • #22249
        Oliver Shaw


        Full marks for doing things properly,  including doing the courses,  and for briefing your daughter on what to do if you go overboard.   And bonus points for what you are teaching your daughter.

        One further thing you could (and should) do;   always carry your hand-held VHF,  worn on your person.   Modern ones are waterproof,  and provided you are not unconscious that gives you the opportunity to raise the alarm.   There are those who would argue that a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) worn on your person is more reliable;   it undoubtedly is,  because it relies on satellite communication,  so there are no blackspots,  so reception of a distress signal is guaranteed;  but there may well be a delay of up to 2 hours (because it has to wait for the next satellite pass),  and it is a one-way communication with no voice contact with Coastguard.   Personally I would regard the VHF as the primary system for coastal sailing,  and in a dinghy that is all that I carry,  but in the yacht (sometimes going further offshore) I also have a PLB as backup.

        There remains the question of what your daughter should do if she is suddenly left alone in the boat,  with yourself MOB.   I don’t think it realistic to expect a 7-year-old to make a Mayday call,  although your wife could certainly do so;  but there may be occasions when you sail with only your daughter,  and Sod’s Law would of course ensure that that is when things go wrong.  …      It would (in my book) be very unsafe to expect a child to use pyrotechnic flares  –  they are dangerous enough even in the hands of well trained adults,  and there have been some serious accidents to RYA instructors while demonstrating them,  caused by misfires  –  including one case where a flare misfired and shot the highly experienced and expert instructor in the stomach,  causing serious injury.

        So we need think of how else your daughter in particular could assist in raising the alarm.   A so-called “laser flare”  –  modern ones nowadays use powerful LEDs rather than lasers  –  might be worth considering;   such as the ODEO Mk III,  or the Ocean Signal EDF1,  which are reviewed in this PBO article,   Be aware that said article is now 5 years old,  and there may perhaps now be others in the market.   There are also cheaper non-marine units,  which may well be better than nothing,  but they are not necessarily as good as the proper thing.   Primarily that would be useful after you have already raised the alarm by VHF,  once the lifeboat is in sight,  to help them to locate you.

        Hope this helps.

        For interest,  in the light of the age of your daughter,  the attached photo (which I have scanned from in Mainsail) shows the youngest helmsman in the 2008 WLYC 24-hour race;   6-year-old George Graham.   No reason why your daughter can’t eventually follow in his wake.



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