Jonbuoy—Stuff That Works (We Hope)

JHH5II-15389

We have lots of ways to get out of the water on "Morgan's Cloud". From left to right: ladder that can be deployed from the water with a pull of the lanyard; custom-built swim ladder; Lifesling; JonBouy.

The winter we spent in London England living on Morgan’s Cloud at St Katharine Haven next to Tower Bridge, was wonderful. We walked all over the city and soaked up the history and culture. And the pubs…wow!

While there we took our MOM and liferaft to Ocean Safety to be serviced. They were great—they inflated our liferaft and let us see how everything worked, always a good idea.

A New Option in MOB Recovery

The other thing they did was condemn our MOM, since the fabric had failed. They suggested the Jonbuoy Recovery Module as a replacement; at the time a relatively new option, which they had developed. The Jonbuoy has a tall inflated mast, which not only makes it easier to see in the water compared to a lifering, it has a lifting ring on the top of the mast so that the MOB can be easily raised on deck with a halyard. Also, the mast is integrated with a teeny liferaft that the person in the water can climb into, an added benefit in cold water.

11 Years Later—A Replacement

The Jonbuoy that we bought in England in 2001 was just condemned this winter during service, not a bad lifespan for equipment that lives on the rail full-time. So we replaced it with another Jonbuoy from LRSE, the US distributors, another great company we’ve worked with over the years to service our safety equipment.

A Pre-emptive Strike

Now, I’m going to do some pre-empting here! Yes, we have a Lifesling attached to the aft rail, next to the Jonbuoy, which would be deployed together with the Jonbuoy. That way the person in the water will be able to choose between the Lifesling, which is attached to the boat, and the Jonbuoy, which has the benefits I described above.

No, we don’t have a Danbuoy. It seems to us that the inflatable Danbuoy falls between the Lifesling and the Jonbuoy—it’s not attached to the boat but neither does it have a lifting ring or the option for the person to get out of the water. And the rigid Danbuoy, together with an associated lifering, takes a long time to deploy, which is particularly problematic for a shorthanded crew, and is easily tangled on its way overboard (firsthand report from John based on many MOB exercises over the years).

A Best Chance Scenario

My greatest fear is that John will fall into the water someday, it could even be in an anchorage, and it’ll be up to me to get him back. It seems to me that, given a scenario in which he’s not able to help me (only a few minutes in cold water can be incapacitating), getting a halyard clipped onto the lifting ring on the top of the Jonbuoy’s mast, which should be close to deck level, would be a lot easier than trying to attach to the ring on his lifejacket, way down at water level. If, god forbid, he ever does hit the water, I want the best chance possible of getting him back on board with me…where he belongs.

Do you have personal experience with any of this MOB recovery gear (through practice or in anger)? Please leave a comment.

Disclosure

LRSE kindly gave us a slight break on the cost of the Jonbuoy of $100.00. Not enough to influence our feelings about the Jonbuoy!

{ 8 comments… add one }

  • Dick Stevenson March 4, 2012, 12:35 pm

    Phyllis, We are a live-aboard cruising couple who are usually on their own and always on our own on passages. Our Lifesling has been used in MOB drills where each of us jumps into the water (in wet suits and with others on board in observer status) and is “recovered” singlehanded. Once you know your boat’s handling characteristics (not necessarily intuitive as we rarely ask our vessels to pirouette), Lifesling fulfilled its advertised promises. We sail with a MOM also, but I have been considering a conventional rigid Danbuoy because of the frequency of reports of inflation devices not working. (Our MOM worked perfectly in a practice deployment just before a re-packing).These reports are mostly anecdotal, not overwhelmingly numerous, but worrisome. A rigid Danbouy system would be more of a headache to store and deploy (my boat is significantly smaller), but would easy my mind about reliability. Jury still out. BTW, we are at St. Katharine Docks (Haven) for this winter and loving it.
    Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    Reply
  • Dick Stevenson March 4, 2012, 12:43 pm

    Phyllis, Follow up on previous. Getting an active MOB back on board is work but not a big worry. Getting someone unable to help him/her self is more than likely not going to work out. We have a variety of methods worked out, but feel that all of them rely too much on good conditions and luck. We choose our boat behaviors with the idea that if underway and you fall overboard (get separated from the boat), you die. We will work hard to prove that a false notion, but try to operate with that in mind as a truth. Dick

    Reply
    • John March 4, 2012, 3:10 pm

      Hi Dick,

      We could not agree more, great wisdom.

      Even with an active MOB, add a dark night, cold water, and anything more than 20 knots of wind and the chances of recovery get very slim indeed.

      When we do our MOB drill, in the introduction I always tell the crew to imagine that there is a 500-foot drop on the outside of the lifelines.

      In fact we put a lot more effort into staying aboard than we do MOB recovery. Note to self: must do a post on that.

      Reply
  • Westbrook March 5, 2012, 11:01 am

    John–
    I memorized your “What Really Matters” list the first time I saw it 4 years ago. #2, of course: “Keep the crew on the boat.”

    Reply
  • Henrik March 5, 2012, 2:36 pm

    Phyllis
    We sail shorthanded, wife and man (mars the 8’th is closing up), and in our world there are two kind of MOB.
    One where the MOB is spotted as it happens. The chances of recovery should be quite good, that is if the MOB are afloat and the other part is able to maneuver the boat. The items mentioned are all helpful, some way or another, but we still think the two keywords here are: always wearing a LIFE JACKET and the both of us must be able to HANDLE THE BOAT. These are easy things to fulfill, or at least should be.

    Worse; MOB without being spotted, like during night time when the other is down for a sleep. In this situation Danbouy, Jonbouy, Lifesling, Liferaft, whatever, none of them will be any good, and none of them will ever save your life, as long as your mate doesn’t know what’s going on.
    The only life saver I know of being able to save my life, having this unpleasant and most unwanted swim, is my mate and without her present, all those other items are useless.
    What are your tactics here?
    Henrik

    Reply
    • Phyllis March 6, 2012, 9:28 am

      Hi, Henrik; Yes, waking up after three hours off-watch and not finding the other person onboard is one of our greatest nightmares. So, probably 14 years ago, we purchased personal MOB devices, which we attached to our lifejackets, that will set off a klaxon below if immersed in water. They have given us peace of mind in terms of finding out quickly if the other person has gone overboard, though we don’t assume that they are going to ensure we can get the other person out of the water. Since they don’t have a built-in GPS, they won’t monitor a MOB’s movements, only give a starting point for the search.

      However, there is a new AIS-integrated personal MOB device available, which will generate an AIS target and monitor the MOB’s movements, and so we are planning to review that once it is released. (It’s waiting on FCC approval in the US at this point).

      Reply
  • Stafford Keegin March 5, 2012, 6:18 pm

    Might I ask you who made your drop down ladder that can be deployed from the water and are you pleased with it? Ever had to us it?

    Many thanks.

    Reply
    • John March 5, 2012, 8:27 pm

      Hi Stafford,

      The drop down ladder was made my Ibas Manufacturing, but I believe they ceased operation some years ago. I bought it back in 1994 when I was still doing quite a bit of single handed sailing, much of it in locations with cold water. My thinking on fitting it was that it would help me get back aboard unassisted if I fell in the water with the boat stationary, say in an anchorage, when I would not be wearing a harness and life line. And no, I have never had to use it, I’m pleased to say.

      Reply

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