A man overboard (MOB), also called crew overboard (COB) or person overboard (POB), is a very serious boating emergency. Most boating deaths occur after falling overboard. Since you can't trust your engine to start immediately, and since most MOBs don't occur in flat water in calm conditions, you must know how to efficiently turn the boat around and return to and stop beside the person under sail.
First, remember these general principles for any MOB:
- Immediately throw floating objects in the water near the person, including life rings, boat cushions - anything that will float, and the more the better. The person can hold onto these things to help stay afloat until you return - important even if the MOB is wearing a lifejacket. Things in the water also make it easier to locate the area of the MOB, which can be critical in high waves or at night.
- Get all crew on deck to help. Assign one person to keep watching and pointing at the MOB at all times while the rest of you handle the boat.
- Press the MOB button on your GPS unit or chartplotter, if you have one. You might think you can easily return to and find the person in the water, but it can be easy to lose track in poor conditions, and knowing the person's GPS position may be necessary.
- Start the boat's engine, if you have one, to assist with or manage your return to the victim. Loosen the sheets as needed so that you're not fighting the sails when you turn. Remember to be in neutral or turn the engine off when you near the victim.
Next we'll look at the steps for maneuvering the boat under sail to return to and stop beside a man overboard.