What is MOB?
An MOB, or Man Over Board is when someone falls off a boat at sea. One of the major risks of sailing, it is important that every skipper and crew knows how to respond. There are lots of ways to fall off a boat; tripping over ropes, slipping on wet decks, an unexpected wave, or a mistake during a manoeuvre.
We’re lucky enough that in Melbourne conditions are rarely bad enough to make falling into the water life threatening. In fact, in summer, it is usually a bit of a laugh and not uncommon for crew members to jump off for a swim before or after racing. However, it is important that everyone knows what to do in the rare occurrence of a MOB in poor conditions.
RMYS has a detailed MOB policy designed to ensure every skipper and crew has participated in enough training and practice drills to ensure that they can recover a person in the water as quickly as possible. RMYS provides annual training lectures to club members and has a life size weighted dummy that boats can borrow to practice with.
What the person in the water should do?
If you are the one to fall off, the most important thing is to activate your life jacket. Every time you put on a lifejacket, make sure you know how to fit it correctly and that you know how to inflate it if necessary. You might not be tired when you first fall in, but you need to conserve your energy for getting back aboard when the boat returns to you – you won’t realise how far out of the water the sides are until you’re in the water next to it. The lifejacket will also make it much easier to see.
The next thing to do is attract attention. If you wave and shout, the crew will not waste time preparing for an unconscious MOB and will probably get back to you quicker. They may even be able to throw you a line, and you present a much bigger target with your hands in the air.
Don’t worry if the boat doesn’t manage to pick you up on the first try. It’s very common, and it’s better to sit in the water for another five minutes than to get dragged behind a boat that hasn’t managed to come to a complete stop.
What the skipper and crew should do?
Every boat is different, and every skipper and crew need to consider how best to react on their boat, considering its weaknesses and strengths. Some boats will react well to simply going head to the wind and allowing yourself to drift back down to the man. Often, higher-performance boats will require a more complex set of manoeuvres because they’ll cover a lot more ground before coming to a stop.
However, no matter the boat, the most important part is that the MOB is kept in sight. It can be easy to lose a small person in the waves, so point with your whole arm (make sure to hold on with your other! Nothing worse than two MOBs because the pointer was too busy pointing to concentrate on staying aboard).
Often, the situation will remain very fluid so be ready to take instructions from your skipper. They may ask you to take down sails or prepare equipment to help get the MOB back aboard once you’re next to them in the water.