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A system to easily retrieve a man-over-board


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What is the issue?
Once a crew member has fallen overboard it can be very difficult to retrieve them even when the yacht is alongside. They are often exhausted or cold and completely unable to pull their own weight, plus the weight of water in their clothing, over the topsides and once again aboard. In the perfect conditions this is a near impossible feat. This can lead to a very difficult situation especially so if the crew are unequal in strength and disposition. A typical cruising couple with a burley man and a lithe lady is a perfect example of this, where the latter is trying to recover the man in a MOB situation.

Why address this?
The greatest danger for a sailor is a man over board situation. It is a prime way to lose life at sea. MOB must be prevented at all costs and in the event of a situation occurring an effective recovery system must be set in place that may be easily accomplished by any crew member assisting any other.

How to address this?
Put in place a man over board recovery system. This can be made by utilising a pair of swivel shackle triple blocks, one with a clam cleat, that are typically used for main sheet solutions as shown in figure 1. Attach a large 150 mm plus carbine hook to the triple block at the bottom and the top tripled block with clam cleat to a preferably dedicated MOB halyard. Provide enough line length between the blocks to allow at least two metres reach. With the clam cleat block at the top, and in contrast to a typical mainsheet solution, the motion to shorten the blocks is by pulling down against the halyard.

The benefit of this system is that it can be ready to go at a moments notice. By letting down the halyard and belaying it, the MOB system may be deployed to any point of the vessel. Once the main halyard is secured all of the equipment being used is on the waters edge so even the snapped on MOB can hoist themselves out should the assisting crew member be pressed to address another purpose.

When I was introduced to this system it was recommended that the MOB recovery system be implemented to fulfil the role of a ‘topping lift’ in normal day usage. This is how I implemented it at first and it is a viable approach if your vessel is short on available halyards. However I subsequently changed it to the dedicated purpose as I had no boom gallows and did not want to deal with the boom coming down in a MOB situation. If a vessel has a boom gallows however this is an ideal attachment point.

A dedicated halyard allows the MOB recovery system to be used as a general vessel hoist, for instance lifting dinghies etc. This has the added benefit of making the crew members completely familiar with the hoist.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.



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