We hope it never happens to you, but here’s what to do in a Man Overboard situation.
It’s National Boating Safety Week, so it’s a good time to brush up on those Man Overboard (MOB) drills. A man overboard is ALWAYS an emergency situation and it is very important to locate and recover the overboard person as soon as possible. A man overboard is always dangerous. It doesn’t matter if it happens in a harbor, at the slip, or open seas.
The majority of cases do not involve bad weather, rough seas, or other extenuating circumstances. Additionally, the most common type of man overboard situation happens in relatively calm waters, on a small boat that’s not going very fast, according to the BoatUS Foundation.
Action must be swift.
The United States Coast Guard says that the first few moments of a MOB are the most crucial. The action taken in the first few seconds after a person falls overboard decides the success of the recovery.
An alert crew-member can do much to save the life of someone who might otherwise drown. First actions should be swift and certain.
- The instant someone falls overboard, yell “Man overboard!” to alert the crew to the emergency and establish an unceasing visual on the victim. Point and do not look away. If you have enough crew, assign this job to one person and let nothing interfere with that person keeping the victim in sight and pointing at the victim from that first moment on.
- If you’re unsure of where the person is or if there is a chance the props could endanger him, stop the boat and ensure that the props don’t injure the victim now or later.
- Activate your GPS MOB button if you have one.
- Throw MOB gear, life jackets, flotation cushions anything that will help the victim float and help you keep track of him, but not so much as to confuse a search.
- Return to and attempt to retrieve the victim. Use the Williamson Turn. Be careful during your approach and proceed with caution.
- If the situation is life-threatening, call mayday three times on VHF 16. Then say, “Man overboard,” and give your location, boat description, and the description of the victim. Do this three times in succession. Don’t hesitate to issue a mayday you can always cancel it if you get the person back aboard safely.
Here is a video demonstration of an ideal MOB situation, but remember: every case will be different.
Stay safe out there.