Crew Overboard Recovery Tips

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 12,902
    Kevin Wensley, Director of Operations of the Offshore Sailing School, explains how to properly initiate a crew overboard recovery.

    Kevin Wensley: Hello! My name is Kevin Wensley. I am Director of Operations of Offshore Sailing School. And today I am at South Seas Island Resorts on the beautiful Captiva Island here in Florida. And today I want to talk a little bit about a crew overboard drill, that's how to react if you lose someone over the site. So the first that's going to happen, imagine this, we are sailing along and you have somebody fall in the water. We need to alert the crew so the call goes out, crew overboard. The next thing that happens is we need to throw some kind of flotation device to help the person in the water. So this could be a lifejacket, it could be a Type IV PFD, it could a fender. So that goes over the side as well. And the last thing to keep in mind is that we need to appoint a spotter, so that if we have enough crew, we designate a spotter. They know it's their job to keep an eye on the person in the water and do nothing else. The next part in terms of the maneuvering of the boat is to turn the boat immediately to a beam reach and a beam reach is where the winds and waves will be hitting the side of the boat. The indicators that you will be looking for is one would be the masthead fly will pointing slightly forwards, tell tails on the shrouds might be flying slightly off. But the waves or ripples on the surface of water will be hitting the side of the boat. So if you turn your boat to be parallel to the wave trains you are going to be pretty much on a beam reach. So we do that, we turn the boat, we don't adjust the sails and we sail for about three boat lengths. After the third boat length, we are going to execute a very aggressive tack. So we are going to be turning the bow of the boat into the wind. So crew, ready for a big tack? Crew say yes! Ask them to leave the jib alone and as you go through the wind, that the main sail go all the way out.

    You execute the tack, the bow turns around, and then we end up sailing downwind again. We are not going to sail dead down wind gain. We are not going to sail back to the person in the water yet. We are going to be sailing one something called a broad reach. So the main sail will be all the way out and the jib will be backed across the foredeck. For me that's a really good time to fold away the jib. So I will fold away the jib, so the jib goes away and it's not going to become a hazardous and make a final approach. And then we turn the boat back up towards the person in the water and ideally we are approaching on a close reach. And the beauty of the close reach is that should you find the boat slowing too much and you are not going to quite make it to the person in the water, we can do what we call fill and spill the main sail. We can just turn the main sail in to keep the power on the boats and then spill the wind as we get our final approach. And ideally as you make your final approach to the person in the water, they are going to be brought in on the lower side, that's going to give them a little bit of protection from the wind and waves from the haul of the boat, and also if we have to throw a line or a fender or something else that floats, it's much easier to do down wind. So that's how to successfully complete a crew overboard recovery.