Captain's Table

Mark Austen

2017.03.07 - Man Overboard!

I've been thinking recently about falling overboard. With Naiad's re-launch approaching there are a few things that I need to sort out and self-recovery is one of them. Naiad does not have guard rails nor jack-stays and although most of the control ropes will be lead back to the cockpit not all of them do so and this means that occasionally I will need to get out of the cockpit and go forward. The anchor or mud weight, for example, can only be deployed and recovered from the foredeck. It is at this point that it will be possible to fall overboard. Not problem really until trying to get back into the boat.

Imagine the scene. You're in a lake or at sea and you have fallen overboard. You are wet, cold and wearing now waterlogged clothes. The question then is how to you get yourself back on to the boat. The lowest point of Naiad is about 12" above the waterline but even so, at 60 years of age and somewhat unfit (read very unfit), that distance will be too much for me to lift myself.

Even the late Charles Stock had qualms about this very thing and in his later years, stopped using several of his sails, like the topsail, so that he did not have to go forward so often and even in calm weather wore a buoyancy aid, something he rarely did in times gone by. His concern, as you can read in his last book, was not the falling overboard, but getting back onboard having done so.

There's wealth of information about crew recovery on the Internet but the issue of self-recovery boils down to "die like a gentleman". Not very helpful. So what to do?

I have decided to run a simple block and tackle from halfway up one of the shrouds. A single block and becket will be attached up the should a distance and a rope will be tied to the becket, lead down to a single block at deck level, back up and round the upper block and then back down to the deck. The lower block will have a loop of rope attached to it and the lower end of the contraption ties to the bottom of the shroud with a piece of rope. Should I fall in, then once the boat has come to wind and stopped moving I swim to the shroud, untie the contraption, put the loop over my head and under my arms and then haul away on the fall (the free end of the rope). The mechanical advantage is three to one and I figure that should allow me to pull myself up high enough to clamber back on to the deck. I may also need to have a jamming cleat on the lower block so that as I haul on the rope it is held in position so that I don't loose the whole thing through having cold hands and letting the rope go accidentally.

I will have to rig up a test system on one of the trees in the garden and see if this arrangement is good enough for me to lift myself up. The distance should only be about 4', I figure that this would be high enough for me to get my legs onto the deck without a struggle.