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Old 03-07-2019, 15:14   #1
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How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

I'm sure there are many answers. Let's list examples, not theories.


I said couples because most of us cruise with 2 people. As a general rule, your spouse is the one person you can spend weeks, months, or years with and not want to kill them.



And not racer stuff. The bowman was caught on the wrong side of the jib during an unplanned tack. Rail meat fell off. A mistake jibing a chute. Only cruising incidents that we know of personally or have read of.


I'm thinking in terms of recovery strategies.



  1. Roll-overs. Realistically, there was no hope. The other crew injured, and the boat severely damaged, and the weather is obviously awful.
  2. Man repairing davit tackle in fair weather and slipped. The boat was on autopilot, the wife in the cabin, and he was damn lucky she heard him.
  3. Several cases of folks getting swept off the cabin roof by an accidental jibe. Generally uninjured (the boom is not moving too fast there) and someone was at the helm.
  4. Several related to anchoring. With sails down and the engine running this should not be too challenging. And yet hoisting a man on board can be tough.
Also, was the other crew at the helm, in the cockpit but perhaps relaxing, or below decks?



I've always thought I could simply trip over my own feet in fair weather, but so far, no such luck. When it's nasty, I'm pretty careful, often (but not always) wearing a tether. I've even been on the cabin roof during an accidental jibe (I grabbed a shroud and swung out of the way).
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Old 03-07-2019, 15:23   #2
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Re: How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

A gentle shove does the job, I find...
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Old 03-07-2019, 15:30   #3
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Re: How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

The ones I've witnessed were a valiant effort at stretching to dock and getting out of the dinghy to the mothership in rough conditions.

I suspect most cases offshore are a combo of events, not one single cause, such as going to the side deck to reattach the kayak in rough weather and getting caught by a gybe or a wave.
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Old 03-07-2019, 15:39   #4
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How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

I have read of one person down below off watch, sleeping, slept late, got up wondering why his wife let him sleep in, she was never found.
Not bad weather apparently and no idea why she fell off. I’d suspect she went on deck or see something, maybe florescence etc. and tripped over a line like you say.

Reading about that got me to buy the AIS Sart as the alarm would certainly wake me up.
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Old 03-07-2019, 15:57   #5
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Re: How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

thinwater, on my long night watches, I used to get out of the cockpit, not clip on, and take a tour round the deck, sometimes to look at dolphins' phosphorescence, sometimes to get more "awake". Sometimes, I would sit on the bow pulpit, holding on, but enjoying the nighttime view of the boat sailing along on her course. Never fell off, but neither was the behavior "safety conscious." I enjoyed those times.

I think some fall off due to alcohol consumption (Natalie Woods' death, though could easily have been pushed, for instance).

Of course one doesn't know (like from having observed) what others do, but I think when the motion is lurchy at sea, and everything's wet from rain or salt spray is probably the most vulnerable, short of knockdowns and roll overs.

How I used to do it, was if I was scared to go forward to do something, because of the motion, that's when I made myself clip on, and go do it, before *things* got worse. Now that we are older, we don't consecutively singlehand the boat: we have both people in the cockpit for reefing. No one's going overboard unnoticed. Whether circumstances allow recovery or not, is in the hands of the fates.

The worst fall I had on a boat was while I had my harness on, job completed, and I started below for something. I tripped on my tether as I came over the bridge deck, and fell to the cabin sole, striking my head and back as I went down. A day or so later, we arrived in a harbor, and I went to the doctor. No serious damage, but the bruises were ugly and sore for quite a while. It was scary for Jim, too, because there was an awful thump when I landed. Not a fun way to wake up.

The only time i ever saw Jim fall on a boat was on some friends' boat, during a spinnaker take down, when they had not laid the pole against the forestay, and when he loosed the shackle, the pole moved towards where he was standing, and he received a blow to his head, that broke his nose. Fortunately, he fell on deck, and was immediately seen to by the owner's wife.

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Old 03-07-2019, 16:16   #6
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Re: How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

I have a policy on our boat. When the weather is rough, the hydrostatic pfd goes on. When the sun goes down, the same thing and anyone not below has the tether attached. If it is necessary to leave the cockpit, both of us will be on deck.
Overkill? Probably. But we’re both still here.
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Old 03-07-2019, 16:23   #7
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Re: How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

On our boat we always wear inflatables which also have harnesses built in. Our rule is that whenever off-watch crew is berthed and likely asleep that the on-watch crew clips in, even when in the cockpit, regardless of weather.

I’ve never fallen off. Nor has my spouse. But I can’t imagine the horror of waking up to take my watch only to find no one else on board. A simple slip on deck could send someone over the side, and with the vane steering, the boat would be outside of yelling range in seconds.
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Old 03-07-2019, 16:33   #8
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Re: How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

Quote:
Originally Posted by JPA Cate View Post
SNIP

I think some fall off due to alcohol consumption


SNIP

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Apropos to the date one of my always observed rules on the boat is never leave the dock, ball, anchor on 4 July.
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Old 03-07-2019, 16:35   #9
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Re: How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

I was cleaning up after cleaning a fish. We were sailing about 4k with the Aries steering as I threw the canvas bucket overboard hanging on to its rope. When the bucket filled began pulling it in against the considerable water force. Decks were slippery from fish blood and my feet went out from under me. I did a pirouette over the life lines and banged my head on the rub rail opening up a nice gash. Wife was on deck and grabbed my feet keeping me from going over board. Managed to get my feet back under me, haul the bucket in and wash down the deck. Wife's great sewing skills stitched up the cut on my forehead and the albacore made great sashimi.
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Old 03-07-2019, 16:36   #10
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Re: How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

My brother was working on the aft deck, pursing up loaded net bags. He would lean back to put good tension on the pursing line. A splice in the line parted, he fell backward and over the side. The helmsman, inside the wheelhouse with the door closed, never heard a thing. My brother watched the boat disappear over the horizon.

Some time later the other (non-helm) crew got up, looked around, couldn't see my brother. A hurried search (including looking under the sole in case he was pulling a practical joke) resulted in the "oh ****" realization that he was gone. They reversed course and firewalled the boat. Ran for what seemed a reasonable time, stopped and yelled for him. No response, so they ran further and repeated the process. After doing this a number of times, after yelling they heard a very faint "here I am". Ran in that direction a bit, stopped and yelled again. This again was repeated several times. When they actually spotted him he was fairly close to the boat, and the sun was setting. They hauled him in and all was good.

There's a moral here. It can be surprisingly difficult to see a man in the water. Sound can carry a long way over the water. If the man overboard is conscious it can be very helpful. A whistle attached to the harness, PFD or whatever is a very good idea, as is a bright light for nighttime visibility.
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Old 03-07-2019, 16:37   #11
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Re: How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

Brings to mind my favourite cruising crooner: Eileen Quinn. “If I killed the captain”

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Old 03-07-2019, 16:41   #12
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Re: How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

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Old 03-07-2019, 16:47   #13
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Re: How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

I didn't fall overboard but on another boat we had trouble with the jib self tacking car jamming. I was up watching as we tacked, we tried it with the sheet tight and loose, when loose we tacked and it ran easily. With the tack over, I bent down to look at the car track just as, for whatever reason we headed into the wind and the clew and D shackles flogged hard and hit me right across the top of my head and I blacked out for 1/2 a second but it could have been worse in another situation.
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Old 03-07-2019, 16:59   #14
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Re: How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

I've always figured that the person in the water can see the boat (or any boat) much better than the person on the boat can see the person in the water. I think a waterproof laser pointer attached to each vest might be better than anything else.
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Old 03-07-2019, 17:00   #15
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Re: How Do Couples Cruisers Fall Off Boats?

I think the most common scenario is the idiot was not attached (with a leash and harness) to the boat. You only go overboard if not attached to the boat.



I stopped wearing an auto pfd too. I am moving on to a neoprene water ski vest. In some cases you improve your chances if you can swim some distance fast (to a line thrown from the deck, to a buoy, to a dinghy, to the stern) etc.


In an auto pdf you get first shocked by the blow up then you can't swim because the bloody thing tries to keep you with your face up.Looking at the sun and waiting for slow death.



I think auto pdfs can be truly dangerous for experienced crews on well sailed boats (think of an inversed boat). They are good for crews that are not skilled seamen though.


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