Man overboard

How to prevent a man overboard situation, and what to do if it occurs.
Steve Lague: It's every skipper's aim to ensure that all of their passengers have a great time every time they go out on the water. And they'll go to great lengths to ensure that it happens.

But what would happen if one of your passengers fell overboard? Would you know what to do?

Doug, what are some of the precautions a skipper can take to prevent a man overboard incident?

Doug King: I think prevention is definitely best, right up front. They should brief all of their passengers before they leave to head out. They should definitely have checked the weather to make sure it's suitable for the size of their vessel and what they intend doing. It's then up to the skipper to make sure that he alerts the passengers if he's going to do any sudden turns or suddenly speed up or slow down so that they know that they're supposed to be hanging on.

It's always a good rule to have one hand on the boat and one hand for yourself just in case the skipper does something that you're not expecting. And I think the other thing as a general rule, any children or people that really can't swim that well should be in PFDs.

Steve Lague: We all know the best laid plans don't always work, and sometimes people do fall overboard. What's the first thing a skipper should do when that happens?

Doug King: Well, the first thing that should happen, whoever sees the person go over the side should yell out, "Man overboard."

Passenger: Man overboard, port side.

Doug King: It's also important that they tell the skipper which side of the vessel that the person went over the side on, because that's the way you want the vessel to turn so the propellers are moved away from the person that's in the water.

The skipper then, on hearing the word 'man overboard', should immediately, if they've got a GPS or a chart plotter, hit the man overboard button, particularly at night because you need to be able to get back to that position where the person was.

The person who saw the person go over the side needs to keep a watch on them, because while the skipper's trying to turn the boat, he won't have them in view. So the passenger really needs to keep a good view of the person that's there. It's then up to the skipper to approach the person in the water downwind so that the boat won't blow over the top of them. The key here is to make sure that when the skipper gets close to them, he's going very, very slowly and by the time he's got the person beside the boat, he's got it out of gear because you don't want the propellers turning around while you've got someone in the water.

It's then just a matter of getting the person back in the boat. If the person needs help to get in the boat, the best way to do it is to get them under the arms and dunk them in water, not putting their head under but push them down twice and then heave them in. This will give the momentum to allow you to pull them into the boat.

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