Members' Online Book: Person Overboard Prevention & Recovery, Chapter 18 of 21

Person Overboard Recovery—Making The Most of AIS Beacons

The availability of comparatively inexpensive, and proven effective, AIS/DSC POB beacons has made Phyllis and me think long and hard about what changes we should make to our Person Overboard (POB) procedures.

Why? These devices are the biggest advance in POB recovery in my lifetime, because (like the EPIRB did before them) they have essentially taken the search out of search and rescue: We will now know where the POB is with pinpoint accuracy as long as we remain within two to five miles of them.

And, better still, any other AIS-equipped vessel (most these days) who responds to our POB Mayday call, will have the same information.

This is a huge advance, but to get the increased safety benefits, just buying the beacons is not enough, we must also:

  1. Set up the beacons and receiving equipment on the boat to make sure that a POB alarm will be heard and that homing in on the signal will be easy for the busy and highly-stressed crew remaining aboard.
  2. Revise and practice the techniques required to return to the POB.
  3. Come up with, and practice, realistic methods to get the POB back on the boat—perhaps the biggest remaining problem to solve.

I’m going to write about each and ask the AAC Brain Trust, as we call those of you who comment, to assist in developing the best ways to take advantage of these beacons, in much the same way we worked together to make big advances in POB prevention earlier in this Online Book.

It’s tempting to start with number one, if for no other reason than talking about marine electronics is fun and seems to bring in the biggest audiences. But thinking about gear before technique is a huge mistake, and one that contributes to a lot of poor decisions, so I’m going to start with number two:

What actions are we going to take if the POB alarm goes off?

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Meet the Author

John

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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