There are countless articles, books and courses that focus on recovering a person overboard, but what really matters to the short-handed crew offshore is making as sure as humanly possible that a person overboard situation never happens in the first place—we need prevention, not cure. This chapter introduces this Online Book and that basic concept.
Person Overboard Prevention & Recovery
The focus of most of the discussion about sailing safety is on recovering a person who has gone overboard. But the sad fact is that if you fall overboard from a short-handed boat at sea, you are probably not going to be rescued. John, who has sailed over 100,000 miles short-handed and much of that in cold water, gives practical advice on harnesses, tethers, life jackets, and jacklines, as well as many tips on procedures that will keep you and your loved ones on board.
And now, notwithstanding the above, includes chapters on recovery.
Table of Contents:
Before we can come up with good and effective person overboard prevention systems, we need to think about and clearly understand the risks we are dealing with, which I examine in this chapter.
We have written a lot about gear in our ongoing Person Overboard Prevention Online Book, but all the gear in the world won’t keep you safe if you don’t heed this tip.
The key to person overboard prevention is never losing contact with the boat. In this chapter I take you through an easy to use (with a little practice) system, which we have evolved over 20 years sailing offshore short-handed on our boat, that will enable you to stay clipped on at all times and still have the mobility and reach to sail your boat properly.
Most of us offshore sailors rely on clipping our harness tether to a jackline to stay safe. But, in many cases, we are totally deluding ourselves, because if we do go over the side, something may break and cast us adrift, or we will drown by dragging.
There is so much wrong with commonly-used person overboard prevention systems that I couldn’t fit it all in one chapter…here’s Part 2.
In the last two chapters we discovered that the jackline systems most of us use for POB prevention are pretty much useless. Now we are moving on to what to do about that—the good stuff.
Centre line jacklines are the right thing to do…but not easy to rig so they actually work. Here’s how we solved the problems from mast to bow.
We have shown that sidedeck jacklines are deeply flawed and may even be more dangerous than no jacklines at all, due to drag risk and the false sense of security they confer. But can we get rid of them and still work our boats efficiently? Yes, we can! Here’s how, with video proof.
Are you making or ordering jacklines to keep your crew safely on the boat? John takes a deep dive into the right material, stitching, and attachment techniques. This is truly a project where the details matter.
Our project to improve person overboard prevention systems has been a long and winding three-year-to-traverse road. But we are nearly there. Here’s the first of two chapters on tethers.
In the last chapter, John wrote about the two different types of tethers he and Phyllis use on Morgan’s Cloud. In this chapter he follows up with the details of how they build each type.
Your harness, its fit, and how you use it are among the most important parts of staying safe on a boat offshore. In this chapter I share what we have learned in 140,000 miles of offshore sailing, most of it short-handed, about harnesses and lifejackets, the features to look for, and their use.
What about using a climbing harness with tether for Person Overboard Prevention? John takes a look at this oft-suggested idea.
Can we stay safe just by following generally-accepted rules like always wear a lifejacket? John doesn’t think so and takes a deep dive into the issues we need to think about.
Assuming that we have decided to buy and use auto-inflated lifejackets, we have yet another decision to make: Which of the two available activation devices should we select, hydrostatic or dissolved tablet? John interviews an expert and makes a selection.
The Quick Stop person overboard recovery maneuver has become the standard taught in most every safety at sea seminar. But how effective is the method really likely to be, particularly for short handed crews offshore? John takes a look.
The availability of comparatively inexpensive, and proven effective, AIS/DSC POB beacons means that all of us must think long and hard about what changes we need to make in our Person Overboard (POB) procedures. John and Phyllis share the recovery technique they will be practicing in future.
John provides an in-depth analysis and comparison of Bluetooth smartphone-based person overboard beacons as against AIS beacons. Brace yourselves, he is not pulling his punches.
So now that we have bought AIS Person Overboard Alarms, all is safe and good, right? No, not really. We also need to make sure that we are going to get an alarm on the boat that will set a rescue in motion. And that’s a lot more complex than just relying on a beep from our AIS receiver or plotter. But never fear, John has done the research, come up with a good solution, sailed with it for a season, and even made a video of a live alarm test.
John believes that AIS person overboard beacons are the biggest advance in person overboard (POB) recovery in his lifetime.
That said, we have recently discover two issues that meant that for much (maybe most) of the first season after we fitted them to the Spinlock lifejacket/harnesses that we wear at pretty much all times when underway, they would not have self-activated.
And while most of the fault lies with us, our experience does bring to light two potential problems that others relying on the auto-activation features of the MOB1 beacon from Ocean Signal, particularly those who bought before mid 2018, need to be aware of.
A recent tragedy, together with excellent work by Drew Frye over at Practical Sailor, has exposed a dangerous weakness in a snap hook used on tethers by many offshore sailors. John explains the problem and calls on manufacturers to take the lead on getting these hooks off boats.