It would be too repetitious for Sail-World to report on all overboard (MOB) sailing incidents that occur on the planet. Every week a coast guard from one or another of the sailing nations around the world reports at least one incident. Most, sadly, drown or disappear without trace. The following story is different only as an amazing survival story. Can you pick at least three mistakes that were made?
A sailor swept off his sailboat two miles from shore this week survived an amazing seven hours at sea, clinging to a ice-cooler while paddling his way to Flagler Beach in Florida.
The Coast Guard said Brian Oliver, 45, was sailing a 22-foot boat Cedar Roost with two inexperienced crew when a wave knocked him overboard at about 5.00pm, two miles off the coast.
'The skipper was escorting them from Ponce Inlet to St. Augustine, and en route they hit a squall. The skipper fell overboard,' said Coast Guard Petty Officer Franklin Timmons said.
The Coast Guard, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Flagler County Sheriff's Office were called, and fruitlessly searched the ocean off the coast by air and coastguard vessel well past nightfall, after which the search was given up.
It was the night security guard on duty at a resort near Cinnamon Beach in Palm Coast spotted a man on the beach at about 12:20 a.m.
The security guard reported that the man was walking around, talking and appeared not to be injured in any way.
According to the Flagler County Sheriff's Office, paramedics who were then called confirmed that it was the missing sailor Brian Oliver and said that he appeared to be cold and shaking, but refused to be taken to the hospital.
Local website FlaglerLive.com later reported that Oliver said he had found himself stuck in the middle of a school of Dolphins.
Experienced boaters in the area were surprised to hear that the man survived even two hours in rough seas.
'Seven hours is a long time,' said Capt. Al Cumbie. 'I’ve been here 35 years and I’ve been in the charter business for that long. I have never heard of anybody falling off a boat and living after seven hours.'
Timmons said the two crew remaining on the sailing boat, Helene Boning, 53, and Andries Bannink, 48, tourists from Finland, also had to be rescued. 'They didn’t have any knowledge of the workings of the sailboat, so we helped them anchor the vessel,' Timmons said.
Cumbie said rough seas Monday night could have knocked Oliver overboard. 'It could easily take you slap off the boat,' Cumbie said. 'Without life jackets, he should have been thanking God he was still swimming.' You didn't need to be a rocket scientist to work out what this skipper had done wrong:
1. The crew weren't wearing life jackets
2. Brian Oliver was not tethered to the boat.
3. Only one of the three people on the boat could sail and the skipper had failed to brief the inexperienced people with sufficient information to reach home if the skipper became incapacitated (or absent).
While they are rarely reported, falling off your sailing boat is only as far as way as a rogue wave in a slight sea or a trip over a stanchion. Remember all the commonsense rules, even when going for a very short sail.