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Old 28-03-2013, 04:59   #1
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Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

Having this discussion on an Australian forum and I said that I have never read/heard of anyone actually being saved by a line trailing from the stern. Does anybody remember it actually working for a solo sailor? Cannot imagine how hard it would be to drag yourself against the speed of the boat and then get onboard assuming that you are fully clothed when you go overboard.

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Old 28-03-2013, 05:11   #2
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Re: Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

I suppose in very calm weather and a boat moving very, very slowly it could be possible to save yourself that way.

At anything over 5 or 6 knots I think you would be drowned very quickly, holding on to a line being dragged by a moving boat.

But that's just speculation -- I can't help you with real cases.
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Old 28-03-2013, 05:19   #3
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Re: Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

my boat is so slow, if I ever fell overboard I would just wait for it to catch up.

Back in my teen years living in Annapolis, my friend Eddie Ogden invited me out for a day of sailing with his Dad on the Chesapeake. His Dad strung about 200ft of line off the back of the boat. Eddie and I jumped in and hung onto the line and drifted to its bitter end, and was pulled along. We were able to get back into the boat by pulling ourselves on the line as the boat sailed. But we were wearing shorts and tshirts. It wasnt difficult. That was back in the early 70's, and most boats of that era were alot slower than today.
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Old 28-03-2013, 05:54   #4
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pirate Re: Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

Your trailing line needs to be set up so that when your weight comes on it disengages the tiller pilot or whatever self steering you have set up... thus the boat heads upwind and stalls out allowing you to haul yourself aboard... small boats trick...
If you manage to recover your cool in time to catch the line...
Not as easy as it sounds..
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Old 28-03-2013, 07:28   #5
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Re: Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

Trailing line is a trip line to your autovane. Tie a ring to the end - something that doesn't drag too much.

EDIT: OOps. Boaty has already said it.
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Old 28-03-2013, 07:43   #6
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Re: Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

It's easy to do a test. Go somewhere where kids are water skiing and steal their skis. watch to see if they survive.


The line astern would need to be very long so one could have time to react, swim and grab. The line being floating would be polypropylene and cut your hands.

And when you are not swimming its probably looking for a propellor to foul.

I prefer the Stay On Deck strategy

PS, I do like the thought of a rope disengaging the AP, engine etc,.... But...
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Old 28-03-2013, 08:06   #7
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Re: Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

I have used a trailing line at my mooring in a tidal river because the current was so strong if you fell in you couldn't swim against it. Several times a season I would have to rescue folks who jumped in to cool off and when they popped back to the surface discovered they were 50 feet behind their boat and moving away fast.
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Old 28-03-2013, 08:25   #8
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Re: Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

I seem to remember reading Sir Robin Knox Johnson's first account of sailing around the world. Worried about his fitness during the voyage he would set the sails for a speed of about 4 knots. then dive off the bow and swim like heck until the stern caught him up before grabbing the line out the stern and hauling himself back on board only to repeat the exercise

The chances of the average overweight middle aged European or American doing this I would think slim. After 25 years of diving there are few who I can remember being able to swim against more than a knot of current.

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Old 28-03-2013, 08:41   #9
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Re: Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

I read a story several years ago in a multihulls magazine written by a singlehander who had fallen off of his trimaran. He was something like 30 miles offshore, about to make landfall after crossing an ocean. He fell off and the main sheet had fallen into the water. He managed to grab it and it sheeted in the main and the boat headed up into the wind and slowed. It was still going a couple knots and he had a hell of a time pulling himself back onto the deck, took him quite a while.
He was a famous sailor who had won big ocean races like the transpac or whatever.
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Old 28-03-2013, 09:33   #10
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Re: Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

At age 16, two friends and I fell out of a 20 foot sloop when the hiking strap broke, broad reaching a couple of miles offshore in a 15-20 knot breeze. No life jackets. Fortunately when we doused the chute earlier we had left the sheets trailing behind, our sloppy seamanship no doubt enhanced by consuming a 30 pack of Strohs. I came up with a spin sheet in my hands, pulled myself back to the boat, climbed in, and threw up in the bilge - a mixture of Strohs and seawater.

I wouldn't advise this technique as a safety improvement of any kind.
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Old 28-03-2013, 10:46   #11
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Re: Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

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Originally Posted by BlackOak View Post
His Dad strung about 200ft of line off the back of the boat. Eddie and I jumped in and hung onto the line and drifted to its bitter end, and was pulled along. We were able to get back into the boat by pulling ourselves on the line as the boat sailed. But we were wearing shorts and tshirts. It wasnt difficult. That was back in the early 70's, and most boats of that era were alot slower than today.
Still do that for fun in the Med on hot days if we are going slowly. Three knots is about perfect. 5-6 knots bikini gets ripped off! With wet weather gear on I think I would have no hope hanging on long at this speed.

Best to stay clipped on rather than trailing lines for safety .
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Old 28-03-2013, 11:07   #12
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Re: Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

sounds like a good way to troll for sharks.
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Old 28-03-2013, 11:09   #13
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Re: Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

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sounds like a good way to troll for sharks.
Few sharks here .
I would never attempt to do this in Australia, so making the most of being here!
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Old 28-03-2013, 11:34   #14
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Re: Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

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Your trailing line needs to be set up so that when your weight comes on it disengages the tiller pilot or whatever self steering you have set up... thus the boat heads upwind and stalls out allowing you to haul yourself aboard... small boats trick...
If you manage to recover your cool in time to catch the line...
Not as easy as it sounds..
This is the key: tensioning the self-steering so that it disengages when you fall off. It's somewhat an argument for windvane and tiller, I suppose...it won't work so well with an autopilot and wheel, unless you propose to carry one of those space-age Garmin "helming" wristwatches, I suppose!

I have heard (but not tried) the idea of the solo sailor tying a bit of light line not as a tether (clearly, but another debate) but as a trigger to disengage the self-steering. How practical this is...and why solo sailors would ever be off the tether...are other questions.

Even an indifferent swimmer (with a PFD, of course) should be able to catch up, either by outright swimming or by "climbing up the line" to a boat that has conveniently rounded up into irons. Of course, the other small boat trick involves a low freeboard...on a bigger boat, you're going to want a second line down to the WL, the one that unfolds the boarding ladder.
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Old 28-03-2013, 11:37   #15
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Re: Have Tailing Lines Ever Saved A Solo Sailor?

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Originally Posted by cfarrar View Post
At age 16, two friends and I fell out of a 20 foot sloop when the hiking strap broke, broad reaching a couple of miles offshore in a 15-20 knot breeze. No life jackets. Fortunately when we doused the chute earlier we had left the sheets trailing behind, our sloppy seamanship no doubt enhanced by consuming a 30 pack of Strohs. I came up with a spin sheet in my hands, pulled myself back to the boat, climbed in, and threw up in the bilge - a mixture of Strohs and seawater.

I wouldn't advise this technique as a safety improvement of any kind.
I would be very resentful of drowning with a bellyful of cheap beer. A bottle of aged rum, on the other hand...well, it would be a close-run thing.
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