The Man overboard! How to rescue a MOB :)

I was sailing, holding the tiller and observing the sails, constantly moving my head around like a dog following the scent in order to guess the wind direction.

– You can sit, when you sit you are sailing much much better – said Krystian for the hundredth time.

Yep, I knew that, but the problem which I had was not seeing where I was sailing if I was sitting. I needed to lift myself up from time to time to assess the situation, but I kept forgetting to sit back. When you sit you are more relaxed, your legs are not killing you in the evening,  just your arms muscles and your hands from controlling the ropes.


It was around one o’clock in the afternoon, the wind was almost invisible and it was rather tricky to sail. After a while and with dying sails Krystian decided to get the engine back to life and head back for a lunch break. We were hoping the wind will be stronger in the afternoon. Unfortunately it was not. Not today, not the next day.

When we hit water again it was time for us to learn the most important manoeuvre in the whole sailing experience – the Man Overboard –MOB.


The most dangerous thing which might happen during sailing is someone unexpectedly landing in water. If something like that happen, you need to stay calm and reasonable, be quick and not panic! Unfortunately you need to leave the man in the water and sail away to make enough space to be able to go back. It might seem like you just leaving him out there and this fact is not an easy one to overcome.

The manoeuvre itself is not very difficult, especially if you are sailing on an engine and your sails are not working, resting.  The difficult part is when you are actually near the person and need to pick her or him up from the water. It is fine if the person is conscious and you have a climbing ladder at the back of your yacht, but it is more difficult if the person is unconscious and you are on your own on a yacht. I do not want to imagine how something like that might end…


Krystian told us a horrifying story about one couple sailing in the middle of the sea and about the wife coming back with her husband attached to the side of the boat, dead. She was able to come back for him but could not drag him up to safety and he died. I could not imagine the horror both of them went through. The sea can be unforgivable.


When you sail with your engine on you simply switch it off, let the boat sail away for a moment to make enough space to be able to sail back. There is nothing complicated about that, it is almost like driving the car (in this instance). You just need to remember to approach the person into the wind. And if you have any crew members with you – you need to make them responsible for watching the person in the water and report back to you about his position and give the command to give him the life ring.IMG_1982

However if you sail you rather sail with your engine turned off, using your sails. And picking up the person overboard is much much complicated then. In both cases you have to sail away to make sure you are creating enough space to be able to come back. The quickest way to sail away is to turn onto a beam and then to broad reach (and again – feeling the wind and being able to assess the position of your boat is really important) – sail away for about five or six boat lengths, but make sure you are not going to lose the sight of the person overboard (MOB). Jibe the boat and aim the leeward side of the boat at the MOB. When you have him on your twelve o’clock and nearby let out the headsail and mainsail sheets so the mainsail will flap – that way you will be able to slow the boat down and give your crew a chance to pick up the unfortunate person.


Learning this manoeuvre is the most important part of your sailing experience. If you can do that, you will feel confident enough to sail the boat on your own.

We have practised this manoeuvre for the next two days alongside with tacking and jibing and I cannot really tell you how many times we did it! Regardless Krystian being optimistic I was still not feeling prepared to even try to pass the exam, I have even cried out of frustration with myself! But at the end of the day I decided I have nothing to lose… and that was a good decision, even though the exam was not an easy task…

Szkoła żeglarstwa Kliper – oddział Szczecin


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