Navy 44 Sailing Guides



Prevention is the best solution to man overboard problems.  In the event that a person does become separated from the boat, every effort must be made to return to the victim and get him back aboard in the absolute minimum amount of time.


The most important preventive measure is to wear a safety harness and be securely attached to the boat.  Many victims have been lost during the short periods of time when they were not clipped on for some reason, such as moving in or out of the cockpit or entering or leaving the companionway.

Harnesses must be used at night, during reduced visibility, during rough weather, or any time that it would seem prudent.  This rule must be enforced.  Experience gained while working with a harness on makes it easier to get around.



At the beginning of each watch:

--Check all man overboard gear and halyards to ensure that they are ready for immediate use.

--The watch captain will brief the watch section on the particular details of the man overboard recovery procedures that will be used, considering the existing conditions of wind, seas, and sails. 

--A Personal Flotation Device (PFD) shall be stored within easy reach of the helmsman to be thrown to the victim.

--A swimmer and backup shall be designated.

--Safety harnesses will be worn and clipped on when topside at night, during heavy weather, and any other time that a man overboard recovery would be difficult.  An inflatable PFD is attached to the harnesses.


Victim Procedures:


--If at all possible, try not to enter the water face first to minimize shock to your body. 

Immediate Action:

--Do not panic.  Remember, when in the water one's horizon is very near.  The boat may therefore seem to sail out of sight before turning around.

--Swim to the PFD thrown from the boat and put it on or hold onto it.  Conserve energy, especially if the water is cold.  Assume the heat retention position.  DO NOT SWIM AFTER THE BOAT.

--Don't shout as this will be a useless expense of energy.

--Employ any survival equipment.  Conserve energy and make yourself noticeable.

     By daylight, ensure your brightest clothing is above water.

     Get your whistle ready for use.

     At night or in low visibility, perform the above plus deploy your personal strobe so it can be seen.  Splashing the water can make you more visible.

--When help arrives be alert for the deployment of the retrieval line.  Attach the line to your harness, PFD, or around your chest and under your arms.  Await further instructions from the boat.

Do not remove clothing or foul weather gear.  Both provide vital insulation and can provide buoyancy.  Boots or shoes can be removed if necessary to swim.  Heat and energy conservation is extremely important to a man overboard victim.

- This page last updated 05/04/2005 -