Last Saturday as we were putting out the fenders at the end of the sail, I heard a splash followed by a couple of expletive deleted words, a quick look around the boat indicated we were short one crew member.
One of the crew had dropped a fender overboard and dove in after it, well actually made a lunge for the dropped fender and slid out under the lifelines about mid-ship and into the water.
They did manage grab the fender after they were in the water, after they gave me the fender back (remember these things are expensive), I sort of floated them back to the stern while holding on to them so they would not get separated from the boat, I turned off the engine and we were able to get them aboard into the cockpit over the stern (my stern is open and not very far off the water.
The whole recovery process only took a couple of very calm minutes to accomplish. Why was it calm when we had a crew in 50 degree Fahrenheit water a quarter mile or so from shore?
The boat was stopped and just drifting while we were putting on the fenders and they were within an easy arms reach for me and there was no need to turn around to come back to the crew in the water and they were wearing a life-jacket.
What went right and some thoughts
- We were not making way so the crew remained within an easy arm’s reach for me, my boat has relatively low free-board for a 30 foot boat so I was able to just reach out and grab them
- The crew was wearing a life-jacket so no danger of them sinking
- I had thought about a few different ways to get a person in the water back onto the boat so this was not something that had not been considered. I also teach boating safety to the general public and it is amazing the number of boaters that have never thought about how to get a person back on-board their boat.
- There is a Lifesling on the boat if needed to hoist a person on-board, I also do a safety briefing before leaving our slip and pointing out the block and tackle for the Lifesling is part of the briefing
- I turned the engine off to make sure the propeller would not be rotating in case the crew in the water got their feet close to the propeller to reduce the chance of injury from the propeller.
- My boat is a please wear a Life-Jacket boat “Life-Jackets are down below aft on starboard, they are assorted sizes and colors, all equally un-stylish, please find one you will tolerate I do ask that you have one on by the time we leave the slip”
Not so good or could have done better
- Folks, fenders float, no need to dive after one, every skipper I know has had a fender or three go overboard so we have done the fender recovery drill before. Come alongside the fender and snag the fender whip with a boat hook and lift the fender back on-board, simple and stress free.
- If you are going into the water leave your cell phone on the boat unless it is one of the newer water proof phones.
- Have something to keep your glasses from falling off in the water.
The day was a bit warm and earlier in the day, the crew member that went into the water had ask if they could take the Life-Jacket off as they were a bit warm, I ask them to please keep the Life-Jacket on. When we were back at the slip, I ask them if they were glad I ask them to keep the Life-Jacket on? Their reply was that yes they were and that they would wear a Life-Jacket all the time from here on out, with no argument.
Yes, had we been making way (moving through the water) or the person that went into the water was not wearing a Life-Jacket the recovery would have been more difficult and stressful.
Remember, for Puget Sound water a person has about 10 minutes survival time if they are not wearing flotation. So flotation is the difference between a recovery needing to be made very quickly and exact and having time to do things a bit calmer. Also, not everyone is comfortable treading water in 600 feet of water when the water is a brisk 50 degrees or so. Without flotation a person in the water needs to work at floating and if they are wearing a lot of clothes the cloths can make treading water more difficult and quite tiring.
For help choosing a Life-Jacket please see: Selecting The Correct Life-jacket / PFD
Remember Life-Jackets do save lives, but only if they are worn.
Thanks for your interest in and support of boating safety.
– c / m –