View Full Version : Man Overboard - How Does It Happen?

25th October 2008, 11:50 PM
Three hundred miles north of New Zealand, we were in a squash zone in the middle of southern winter. We got a late start north to New Caledonia, and now we were paying the price.

I was standing in the middle of the salon on board Exit Only, looking at a nautical chart surveying our predicament. We were wondering how bad it was going to get, and what we should do to deal with the situation.

I had my legs spread apart a comfortable distance because I am about an inch too tall in the salon, and so my legs were locked into what I thought was a secure position. Unfortunately, the sea is full of surprises, and in a fraction of a second, I found myself flying through the air, and I ended up in a sprawl in the galley down in the port hull. I was lucky that I didn't break a leg or fracture a rib.

Interesting. A wave hit Exit Only on the port side, and instantly moved her to starboard a distance of six to eight feet. I actually didn't move. I held my position, but unfortunately my position was now down in the galley.

After that incident, I finally understood one reason why people sometimes fall overboard at sea. If I had been standing on the port deck outside when that wave instantly moved Exit Only six to eight feet to starboard, I would have ended up standing in thin air six to eight feet away from Exit Only. My cat would have moved out from underneath me, and since I don't know how to fly, I would have been overboard in a world of hurt.

I now have a lot of respect for beam seas and their ability to move a yacht instantly sideways. There are many ways to go overboard on a yacht, but this one came as a major surprise.

By the way, there is a happy ending to this story. We deployed our parachute sea anchor for seventeen hours, and our life immediately improved. Pure magic.

Have any of you multihullers ever gone overboard or had crew members go over the side? How did it happen?

16th April 2009, 11:26 AM
I have twice had crew members decide to go for a swim when under way in the Med! One was an inebriated doctor!! We had no trouble picking them up in good weather.
On another occasion whilst sailing at 10kts under spinnaker south of Cagliari I foolishly agreed to an army officer's request to be towed on a rope at this speed. Needless to say he held on for all of ten seconds b4 disappearing astern! I made his girlfirend stand on the rear cabin and keep pointing at him while we lowered the spinny as soon as poss. But it was several minutes b4 we motored back to his tiny black head and he climbed the boarding ladder unaided. Won't do that again! Did make me realise how quickly someone can terminally disappear. We now have a danbouy and attached lifebelt for instant depoyment.
And when my daughter was young I made her swim with a bouyancy jacket while tied to the float even at anchor!
No doubt others could share some steep learning curves!
Earlier on a big tri off Cape Finisterre we were hit by a vertical crosswave, it appeared suddenly and I shouted to everyone to hang on without problems.
I remember visiting a Dean cat and being surprised at the internal vloume with nothing preventing a crew falling from bridgedeck into hull.
I always tell the crew the floats are out of bounds offshore, and with strong netting between main hull and floats falling overboard should be unlikely. A good job too since most crew are very resistant to wearing safety harnesses. In fact video of race crews show they almost never do whatever the weather.

Sandy Daugherty
6th June 2009, 05:31 PM
Its no secret that a percentage of the male drownings in the US had their zippers down.