FROM THE BOATU.S. FOUNDATION FOR BOATING SAFETY AND CLEAN WATER
HOW TO PREPARE FOR A
Few of us plan for a crewmember to fall overboard.
Getting that person back aboard is harder than you think.
This month, the BoatU.S. Foundation tackles the subject
BY TOM NEALE | ILLUSTRATIONS BY PAUL MIRTO
UNLESS YOU DO THE RIGHT THINGS, fast, when someone falls over- board, that person could be lost. Man-overboard (MOB) fatalities make up 24 percent of all boating deaths. Our BoatU.S. Foundation for Boating Safety and Clean Water has studied these incidents over a five- year period and created a picture of the typical accident. The majority
of cases do not involve bad weather, rough seas, or other extenuating circumstances.
“Most happen on relatively calm waters, on a small boat that’s not going very fast,”
said Chris Edmonston, president of the BoatU.S. Foundation. “Victims tend to be men.
Fishing is a prime activity, and in many cases, alcohol is involved.”
Numerous articles have been written about recovering a lost crewmember from a sail-
boat, but MOB procedures for powerboaters have seldom been addressed. In light of the
profile above, we present a general overview of MOB scenarios and procedures for the
benefit of all boaters, no matter the size of your boat. We include an accompanying sidebar,
“Brother, Save Thyself,” about how to get
back aboard a small boat. We also pres-
ent and illustrate the Quick-Stop method,
favored by many sailboaters, on our website
SOBERING MOB FACTS
OUR BOATU.S. FOUNDATION has created a snapshot of boating fatalities that occurred between 2003 and 2007, a five-year span that gives good insight on MOB accidents and how they happen, so that we can work to help lower those numbers.
In that timeframe, 749 of the 3,133 total U.S. boating fatalities were MOB:
■ 24% were characterized as “falls overboard.”
■ 24% died at night, and 76% died during the day.
■ 82% were on a boat under 22 feet in length.
■ 63% didn’t know how to swim.
■ Only 8% of the non-swimmers were wearing a life jacket.
■ 90% of accidents occurred when water conditions were calm
or had less than 1-foot chop.
■ Just 4% of the boats had two engines.
■ 85% of fatalities were men.
■ Average age was 47.
■ During the day, alcohol played a part in 27% of the deaths.
■ At night, alcohol played a part in 50% of the deaths.
■ Falling overboard while fishing accounted for 41% of the deaths.
— CHRIS EDMONSTON
President of BoatU.S. Foundation
KNOW YOUR BOAT’S
When someone falls overboard, it’s critical to
get to the victim quickly. Think about how
you’ll do this on your boat without endangering the victim with your prop. Consider the
freeboard of your boat. If it’s high, this makes
it difficult to get a victim back aboard. If your
boat has a squared chine (bottom), waves
may cause the boat to crash down on a victim
who’s alongside, while a rounded chine may
push the victim away from the boat and out
of reach. Look at your stern platform. Will it
help, or plunge down on a victim, pushing
him underwater and perhaps into the props?
Before there’s an emergency, consider how
these factors affect your boat’s maneuverability, and fit your boat out with gear that might
mitigate some of these challenges (see MOB
equipment sidebar on page 65).
CONSIDER YOUR FIRST STEPS –
BEFORE THE WORST HAPPENS
If you have an MOB, the following basic procedure needs to happen immediately. To prevent confusion from impeding swift action,
practice. But remember, your exact actions
must depend on many variables.
1. The instant someone falls overboard, yell