Just the thought of falling overboard scares most sailors into a 'stay-aboard-at-all-costs' mindset. And yet this most serious of sailing emergencies does happen now and then. Recovery will be tough no matter what the marine weather conditions.
Use these steps to prepare your cruising sailing boat ahead of time with one little-known method that could be the perfect solution IF the person in the water is fully conscious and in good shape and you have successfully positioned the boat ready for recovery.
Prepare Your Recovery-Elevator Ahead of Time:
Get your small cruising sailboat ready now to put the elevator recovery technique into action if your sailing crew or partner falls into the water. Use the elevator technique in light to moderate sailing weather conditions.
Make sure that the person in the water has on a personal flotation device (pfd) before you start the alongside recovery process. The pfd will protect them in and out of the water. As they brace against the side, it will give some protection from bumps against the hull and sharp edges like toe rails or Genoa tracks as you winch them aboard.
Follow the steps described below along with the illustration. Work out the idiosyncrasies on your vessel. Practice setting up the rig with your crew or partner now. That way all hands will be ready to put this unique technique into effect at a moment's notice.
1. Rig the Recovery Elevator Foot-Rope:
Find a long piece of large diameter line to use as the foot-rope of the elevator. Secure one end of the line to a strong deck cleat forward. Lead the line aft to the cockpit. Stay outside of all stanchions, lifelines, rails and shrouds.
2. Fairlead the Foot-Rope Aft to the Cockpit:
Pass the line through a sheet block or snatch block to lead it to a primary or secondary cockpit winch. Wrap the foot-rope three or four times around the winch. Insert the winch handle. Drop the lifelines in the vicinity of the recovery area.
3. Recover the Person from the Water:
Ease the line to form a deep loop over the side (see illustration). Have the person in the water hold onto the toe rail and stand on the bottom of the foot-rope. Take up tension on the foot-rope smooth and easy. Double check that the person has a good grip on the side of the boat. Grind on the winch a bit at a time to lift the person clear of the water and onto the boat.
The above is one extra technique in the armory of recovery techniques.
Practice prevention to avoid the danger of recovery in an overboard emergency. Prepare now to deal with the #1 sailing emergency with your sailing crew or partner--wherever in the world you choose to go sailing or cruising!
John Jamieson (Captain John) with 25+ years of experience shows you the no-nonsense cruising skills you need for safer sailing worldwide. Visit his website at www.skippertips.com. Sign up for the Free, highly popular weekly 'Captain John's Sailing Tip-of-the-Week'. Discover how you can gain instant access to hundreds of sailing articles, videos, and e-Books!