How to Act in MOB (Man Overboard) Situation

/ Published in Sailing Tips

In sailing, like in any other activity, accidents can happen. One of those is MOB, short for Man Overboard. When/if it happens, the most important thing is to stay calm, focused, and organized.

In the event of a Man Overboard follow this procedure:

  • Shout ‘man overboard’ to alert the crew.
  • Press the MOB button on the GPS.
  • Throw a lifebuoy to the MOB. Mark the MOB with a smoke flare.
  • Allocate a crewmember to point at the MOB in the water.
  • Keep pointing; don’t lose sight of the MOB.
  • If the motor has been started:
    • Prepare a throwing line.
    • The skipper will bring the boat alongside the MOB, with the boat pointing into the wind and the propeller stopped.
    • Get a line around the MOB and get them aboard.

Here is the most common maneuver you can do to return for a MOB

Quick turn

The quick turn is the traditional response to a man overboard emergency on a sailboat. Despite many new approaches, it is still a robust strategy and often the best method. Certainly, when the crew is shorthanded, or when the vessel is in heavy weather, the quick turn method has a lot of merits because it avoids a jibe. The quick turn is essentially a figure eight. On a sailboat it consists of the following steps:

  • Change course to a beam reach and hold for 15 seconds
  • Head into the wind and tack, leave the jib fluttering
  • Veer off until the boat is at a broad reach
  • Turn upwind until the vessel is pointing at the victim; at this point, the vessel should be in close reach.
  • Slacken the mainsail until the vessel comes to a stop with the victim on the lee side of the boat

Williamson turn

  • The Williamson turn is most appropriate to be used at night or in conditions of reduced visibility, or if the point risks getting (or already has gone) out of sight, but is still relatively near.
  • Put the rudder over full.
  • If in response to a man overboard, Put the rudder toward the person (e.g., if the person fell over the starboard side, put the rudder over the starboard full).
  • After deviating from the original course by about 60 degrees, shift the rudder full to the opposite side.
  • When heading about 20 degrees short of the reciprocal, put the rudder amidships so that the vessel will turn onto the reciprocal course.
  • Bring the vessel upwind of the person, stop the vessel in the water with the person alongside, well forward of the propellers
  • If dealing with a man overboard, always bring the vessel upwind of the person. Stop the vessel in the water with the person well forward of the propellers.

The maneuver was named after John Williamson, USNR, who used it in 1943. However, according to Uncommon Carriers by John McPhee, the maneuver was originally called the Butakov pipe and was used in the Russo-Japanese War as a way of keeping guns at the same distance from an enemy. (wiki)