Recovering a Person Overboard

When a person falls or is knocked overboard into the water, a potentially life threatening condition exists.

To retrieve persons in the water you should use:

  • buoyant heaving lines.
  • lifebuoys.
  • adequate devices for re-boarding the vessel.

You should practice rescue procedures for the particular type of vessel you have under your control.

The rescue procedure to recover a person overboard should include:

  • the use of safety equipment.
  • the tasks of each person on board.
  • the movement of the pleasure craft.

When someone falls overboard, immediately:

  • sound the alarm - yell
    "man overboard !".
  • stop engines or manoeuvre sails for a return approach.
  • throw a buoyant object to assist the person and to mark the spot.
  • detail one person to keep sight of the person in the water.
  • carefully manoeuvre to effect recovery.
  • be careful in retrieval; many would-be rescuers have been pulled into the water by the person in distress.

In reduced visibility or if it is not possible to keep the person in sight consider the "Williamson Turn" manoeuvre.

  • immediately put the rudder hard over to the side from which the person fell.
  • maintain speed until approximately 60 degrees from the original heading
  • then ease the rudder and put hard over to the opposite direction to bring the vessel around to the reciprocal of the original course.
  • stop engines / loosen sails and the vessel should drift down to the person's position dead ahead.

The effectiveness of this manoeuvre will vary with each vessel and with weather and sea conditions.

Practice it - it may save a life.