Man overboard


Possibly the worst thing you will hear in a typical sailing career. Everyone needs to switch on and get the person out of the water as soon as possible.

Even in the Aegean the seas can be cold enough to kill them. If they aren’t wearing a lifejacket then they could tire out and drown in minutes.


As soon as you have established someone has gone in the water, shout “Man Overboard”. The person who has seen it and given the shout should point to them immediately and keep your eyes on them.

Other crew should throw everything that floats at the person. This may mean the life ring and the Dan buoy but also any cushions and lifejackets to hand.

The greater floatation they have the less tired they will be and therefore likely to stop kicking.

Man over boardAt the same time, if under sail the boat needs to turn into the wind and the jib taken in.

The mainsail should be sheeted in tight with the boom amidships so it doesn’t give any drive to the boat.


Motor around the casualty as closely as possible in a half circle so you are down wind of them.

Motor directly upwind to the casualty and grab them - with a boathook as necessary but with your hands as soon as close enough.

Manage the throttle so the vessel is stopped in the water.


This is not a time for engine maintenance!
Sail on a broad reach to get some way on for no more than six boat lengths.

Tack and gybe as necessary so the boat is directly upwind of them.

Let go sheets and drift down to the casualty.


Get a line under the casualty’s armpits and round their back if possible so you do not lose them. Draw them to the stern and get them aboard.

Have at least two people doing this as someone in the water is much heavier than ashore.

Deal with any injuries (see our First Aid section) and get something warm inside them such as a hot chocolate.

DO NOT give them alcohol as this makes their body cool down and you could inadvertently make any hypothermia worse.

Make your decision as to the next actions. You do not always need to call for help unless there is a medical emergency.


The sea and weather are unpredictable. It isn’t only the newest person to sailing who can go over the side. It can also be the experienced yet overconfident sailor who takes an unnecessary risk and has a slip when they go in.

What about handling a sail on the bow in big seas? Half the time you’re airborne and a wave from a different direction can throw the bow from underneath you and you land in the drink.

Children aboard?

At all times when you are away from the dock, children should wear lifejackets.

Bad weather?

In any uncomfortable weather, all crew should wear a lifejacket.

Rough seas?

When leaving the cockpit in seas of over a metre in height, the person should wear a lifejacket and a harness, clipped to the safety lines around the deck.

This should always be observed when you have crew aboard - there is some debate about doing this singlehanded but almost no-one goes singlehanded on a Kavas yacht.


The Dan buoy will have a strobe on it that is activated when it goes in the water. Should someone go in the water, get the Dan buoy in after them as fast as possible.

MOB night time

Grab the brightest torch you have on the boat and shine it on them. Keep it pointed at them until rescued.

Many boats have a searchlight aboard. Use it.

Regardless of how calm the water is you should always clip on to a safety line when you leave the cockpit after dark. Boats don’t have headlights and people use their night vision to navigate - human eyes are poor in the dark so you falling over the side might not be discovered for many minutes.
In even half metre seas in daylight it is hard enough to find someone between the waves, so not being noticed as missing for even a minute can be a fatal mistake. It is not wise to take risks.

If the boat has them, make sure that everyone is wearing a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), which when activated will tell all boats within line of sight that a Man Overboard emergency is taking place and gives an exact GPS position of the casualty.

Using your electronics on your boat you can locate them in the dark.

While PLBs are not cheap, how much do you value your husband / wife / best friend / child?