Holding the Course
Does everybody know the standard
protocol for dealing with one of the most serious boating
When there are three or more people
on a boat and one of them falls overboard, everyone who is not
directly responsible for steering must take a position within
sight of the helm and point steadily toward the person in the
water. A rescue is possible even when the victim has started to go
under, but not if no one marks - and holds - the spot.
Flotation is imperative as well,
and if the victim has no vest, throw a boat ring, cushion or other
buoyant object within easy reach, ideally with a line tied to the
boat. You don't want to hit the person with a thrown object or
with the boat, so approach cautiously - and don't attempt
recovery near a turning prop.
If your boat has a GPS or LORAN,
mark your position or press the MOB button.
The Coast Guard on Cape Cod had an
interesting overboard call a few years ago from a yacht about 150
miles SW of Nantucket. A retired couple were taking turns at the
helm, and when the husband came on deck after a 4-hour nap, he
found no sign of his wife.
Rather than come about and attempt
to retrace his course, he had the presence of mind to leave things
just as they were - including the autopilot. An Air/Sea Search
& Rescue Falcon was dispatched within minutes, and after
picking up the yacht on radar the navigator computed its set and
They backtracked almost 30 miles
until they found the 62-year-old woman, in her orange life vest,
waving a happy welcome. It's a fair bet that if the husband had
broken his course in an attempt to find her himself, neither he
nor the Coast Guard would have been successful.