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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 from the water when they are alongside the vessel. They are often exhausted, cold and completely unable to pull their own weight, plus the weight of water in their clothing, over the topsides and aboard. In the perfect conditions, this is a near-impossible feat to achieve let alone in a seaway.

MOB victims are typically exhausted, cold and unable to pull their own weight

Image: Markus Bärlocher

This can lead to a very difficult situation arising and especially so if the crew aboard are unequal in strength and disposition. A typical cruising couple with a burly man and a lithe lady is a perfect example of this, where the latter is trying to recover the man in a man overboard (MOB) situation.

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

How to address this?
Put in place a MOB recovery system. This can be made by utilising a pair of swivel shackle triple blocks, one with a clam cleat, that is typically used for mainsheet solutions as shown below.

A mainsheet swivel shackle triple blocks and clam cleat is almost ready to be

Image: Michael Harpur

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 it to feed out a for a distance of at least two metres reach. Arrange it so that the clam cleat block is at the top. This is in contrast to a typical mainsheet solution but having the jammer at the top enables you to pull your weight down upon the halyard to shorten the line which makes for much easier going.

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 a '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 hoist system should be implemented to double up as a ‘topping lift’ in normal 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 did not have a boom gallows Experience and I did not want to deal with the boom coming down in a MOB situation. If a vessel has a boom gallows this is an ideal dual purpose.

A dedicated halyard allows the MOB recovery system to be used as a general vessel hoist that can be used for hoisting dinghies Experience etc. This has the added benefit of keeping the device top of mind and the crew completely familiar with how it is used.

With thanks to:
Michael Harpur, Yacht Obsession.
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