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Old 23-10-2012, 18:09   #31
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Re: How many people actually fall overboard each year?

I've been involved in two MOB situations. The first was during a race when the boat rounded down under spinnaker, putting four crew who had been sitting on the rail overboard. The lifeline had parted during the round-down. The second was sailing down-bay to Redwood City. Someone on another boat heard a shout and then saw someone in the water waving maybe a quarter mile away. They turned around and dropped their sails (probably a mistake) while putting out a mayday an the VHF. I was about a mile away at the time, and diverted to search. We found a windbreaker in the water near the spot where the MOB was seen, and the windbreaker was later identified as belonging to the deceased.

Within an hour the county sherif found a sailboat washed up ashore, its sails still up. They guy had been singlehanding.

We searched until dark, turned the windbreaker over to the CG, and then continued home. They found the body a week later, very near the coordinates where we'd found the windbreaker.
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Old 23-10-2012, 18:15   #32
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Re: How many people actually fall overboard each year?

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Originally Posted by Kettlewell View Post
The statistics are vanishingly small for sailboats the size most of us sail. If you take all the deaths in the entire USA, for every reason, on cruising sailboats it is often less than a handful on one year. You are truly in much greater danger driving to the boat, or probably taking a shower--lots of people die every year falling in the bathroom. It perpetually amazes me the amount of time, money, and effort we expend worrying about the wrong things in life--falling overboard from a larger sailboat amongst them. Yes, have good lifelines, use safety harnesses, and be careful, but the words of Irving Johnson come to my mind when someone asked him if it was dangerous to climb to the top of the masts on a square rigger offshore with no safety lines or gear. His answer was something like, "It would be silly to let go, wouldn't it?"

Maybe the reason so few go over is because of the precautions we're talking about. I know that my friend is not in any Coast Guard statistics.
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Old 23-10-2012, 18:18   #33
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Re: How many people actually fall overboard each year?

I fell overboard once while sailing singlehanded up the ICW, but I didn't tell anybody. Have I screwed up the statistics?
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Old 23-10-2012, 18:30   #34
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Re: How many people actually fall overboard each year?

I have never unintentionally gone overboard. When I have gone overboard it was when teaching others how to sail. We'd spend many hours on MOB then I would be the surprise MOB.

I have seen several persons go into the drink. Typically those are the kind who throw the anchor, jump onto the dock, etc. The careless types. However that is not to say all who go overboard are careless. Things happen.

Probably the most fantastic retrieval I have heard happened on a US destroyer in WWII. One crew was famous for bodysurfing the wake. Only this time the bridge didn't know he was in the water when they manuevered hard over. He lost the wave and wasn't reported missing until several hours later. Seeing your boat sail away has to be a lonely feeling. A rather gregarious type, he was all smiles when they brought him onboard. He was one of the early California surfers, a contemporary of Doc Ball.
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Old 23-10-2012, 18:33   #35
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Re: How many people actually fall overboard each year?

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I assume they would dissagree with you... And say I spent time worrying about the right things.
Let's put it this way. I am very certain that well more than 99.9% of the people participating in this thread will die of something other than falling overboard, yet how many of us smoke, drink to excess occasionally, are overweight, go skiing, or commute to work every day by car? Sailing is not dangerous, yet we spend a lot of money and expend a lot of effort to mitigate very small risks. By the way, most of the people who fall overboard do so from small powerboats or paddle boats, in good weather, during the day, and for no apparent reason, other than drinking. They just fall over and drown. If you don't drink, you can swim well, and you take reasonable precautions, you can make even those small boats pretty safe too. As I said, take the commonsense precautions most of us do, and you get that risk way down.
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Old 23-10-2012, 18:39   #36
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Originally Posted by Kettlewell

Let's put it this way. I am very certain that well more than 99.9% of the people participating in this thread will die of something other than falling overboard, yet how many of us smoke, drink to excess occasionally, are overweight, go skiing, or commute to work every day by car? Sailing is not dangerous, yet we spend a lot of money and expend a lot of effort to mitigate very small risks. By the way, most of the people who fall overboard do so from small powerboats or paddle boats, in good weather, during the day, and for no apparent reason, other than drinking. They just fall over and drown. If you don't drink, you can swim well, and you take reasonable precautions, you can make even those small boats pretty safe too. As I said, take the commonsense precautions most of us do, and you get that risk way down.
Well said......and funny! Great!
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Old 23-10-2012, 18:44   #37
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Re: How many people actually fall overboard each year?

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I am curious if this is a common occurrence given the given the amount of discussion regarding the importance of staying on board and the various training and mechanisms available to keep you on board...

Has anybody been successfully retrieved from a long distance from the boat? For example, if one person was on watch and the boat kept going a good two or three hours before the other watchperson came on.
There was an interesting overboard incident in Georgia Strait a few years ago, when a man went overboard and his wife, a non-sailor, wasn't able to turn around or stop the boat. she was able to call for the Coast Guard on the VHF, and they dispatched a helicopter and hovercraft to search for the man. Now, that strait is about 20 miles by 50, and often has a large swell, as it did on the day in question. it would seem nearly impossible to spot a person in the water in such a large body of water, but, not only did they find him, but so did a news helicopter, so I remember the footage of him on the 5 o'clock news, bobbing in the swell, and actually going under water when the larger swells passed over him. He was one lucky sailor to be found at all given the amount of time that passed before searchers arrived at his approximate last known position.
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Old 23-10-2012, 18:55   #38
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Re: How many people actually fall overboard each year?

Lucky to be Alive
Last summer I hauled my Santana 28 up to Olympia to start a summer of cruising. I am a High School teacher and was looking forward to seven or eight weeks of cruising. I was starting out with my two kids, Gwen 8 and Aaron 11, and Piggy the guinea pig. We were buddy boating with Phil and Penny aboard Gallifrey, a Vancouver 25.
We left Olympia on the 1st of July and cruised up the sound, stopping along the way to spend time at Point Deception Zoo, Hartstein Isand, Seattle, Blake Island (who ever stole the fishing pole and tackle box you partly ruined a boy’s summer), Whidbey Island, and into the San Juans. While in the San Juans the auto pilot gave out so it was a lot of hand steering . After a few day’s we headed into Anacortes to meet my wife (Cheryl) and dog (Neptune) on July 20th. When we arrived in Anacortes, I went to the local marine electronic repair shop to see about auto. But they were too busy to get right to it. So, I got some advice and went back to the boat and with the help of my crew I performed surgery on auto. We found the trouble, a broken drive gear. So back to the shop we went but they were closed. We went for ice cream to plan our next move. We decided to return to the boat and await Mom.
After a night of pizza and root beer and telling Mom of the great adventures and wonderful sites, we prepared to get underway. I went back two times that morning to get the parts but the shop was not open. So, we cast off lines right after Phil and Penny, who always seemed to get out before us. It was a wonderful sunny day but no wind, so we headed up Bellingham channel. The plan was to go to Sucia then into Canada to cruise the Gulf Islands and see the Buchart Gardens and Victoria. Cheryl and the kids were down below playing a game.
I was in the cockpit sitting on the coaming with my feet on the cabin top, steering with a hiking stick, leaning on the lifelines, enjoying the sun. What a wonderful trip this had been and now Cheryl was onboard and things were as they should be. We were motoring along (noisy) at about five knots. I had been relaxing for about an hour when all of a sudden I heard a popping sound and the pelican hook on the gate POPPED OPEN!
Needless to say I fell over backwards into the water with a death grip on the hiking stick. I could not hold on. As I hit the water the force of the boat tore it out of my hand. I went under and when I came up the boat was leaving me. I tried to grab the inflatable dingy we were towing but I missed the painter on the side as my fingers could not grasp it. The whole time I was screaming for help.
Cheryl and the kids down below suddenly felt the boat make a sharp turn to port. Cheryl yelled up to ask me what was going on. When I did not reply she stuck her head up through the companionway to see what was going on. But where had Dad gone? She slowed the boat and scanned the water. She saw the open gate and panicked. Scanning the water again she spotted my red hat but did not see me and, knowing I am not a very good swimmer and was fully clothed, thought I had drowned. Then she spotted me waving and screaming. She headed for me at full throttle with both kids on deck keeping a eye on dad.
From the water the sight of your boat going away from you is one I cannot describe. It seemed like forever before anyone was on deck looking for me. When Cheryl appeared on deck I knew I had a slim chance of making it as I was swallowing water and having a hard time staying up. At one point I tried to take off my pile pullover but went down and was afraid, so I swam towards the boat.
Now my boat is coming at me at what seems like warp speed. “Oh my God she’s going to run me down.”
Cheryl and the kids lost me as the boat got close. Now I was doing all I could to get away from the boat but not too far. On the first pass they missed me . Great, now instead of getting run over by my boat I was just back to drowning. On the second pass Cheryl parked the boat about three yards from me. I was struggling to stay up and begging them to throw me something. Aaron was holding one of the two throw cushions that were in the cockpit and Cheryl was telling him over and over to throw it, but could not take it from him, throw the other cushion or the lifesling, nor our man overboard pole. Gwen was just wide eyed in disbelief.
As I was along side the boat, one of the main traveler lines was hanging over the side. I reached up and grabbed it. Tired and very cold, I asked for the lifesling which they dropped to me. Now I could go around to the stern and get back onboard.
Phil and Penny, seeing our boat turn around, headed back to us. When they spotted a black object in the water they thought it was Neptune the dog. Laughing, they came back to watch us get a 90-pound lab back on board. As they got closer they saw me in the water and were laughing about me in the water to rescue the dog. When they got close they realized Neptune was onboard.
When I sail the boat on the Columbia after work, I wear my life jacket. The kids do not come up on deck without a life jacket and are good about reminding each other. Phil and Penny both commented on how impressed they had been with me wearing a life jacket every day. This was the only day I did not put on a life jacket. Most times I wear a manual/automatic West Marine vest.
I know how lucky I am to be alive. The one thing I kept telling myself was I could not drown in front of my kids and ruin something they both love.
Tim

This happened in 2000. I am not a swimmer. I can barley tread water. We had practiced MOB many times, On the Columbia river,Puget sound and lakes when we had an Aquarius 23.

Tim
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Old 23-10-2012, 19:29   #39
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Re: How many people actually fall overboard each year?

"Lucky to be alive"

Thanks for sharing your story.


I doubt the "wise guys" on this thread will think an overboard situation is as funny when it happens to them.
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Old 23-10-2012, 19:38   #40
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Re: How many people actually fall overboard each year?

And that is how it happens! One second he's there, the next second he's not. Tim, being a poor swimmer, fully dressed, in cold water, without flotation, panic setting in, was saved only by his hand on the tiller.

I have said it for years and told everyone in ear shot...if one will not become a stronger swimmer at least become proficient in "drownproofing" as taught by American Red Cross. Internet search will reveal the details. Better is to schedule classes. And never panic. NEVER panic.

Thanks Tim for sharing what very could have been your final demise.
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Old 23-10-2012, 19:53   #41
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Re: How many people actually fall overboard each year?

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And that is how it happens! One second he's there, the next second he's not. Tim, being a poor swimmer, fully dressed, in cold water, without flotation, panic setting in, was saved only by his hand on the tiller.

I have said it for years and told everyone in ear shot...if one will not become a stronger swimmer at least become proficient in "drownproofing" as taught by American Red Cross. Internet search will reveal the details. Better is to schedule classes. And never panic. NEVER panic.

Thanks Tim for sharing what very could have been your final demise.

If you drownproof in the waters in which I sail (the PNW), you will die of hypothermia. Swimming will do you in as well.

Wear a pfd and learn the HELP position.



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Old 23-10-2012, 20:25   #42
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Re: How many people actually fall overboard each year?

Jack, I suppose I wasn't clear on my point. My point is to do what one can in order to prolong life by minimizing energy wasted on feelings of distress. There is physical strength and strength through knowledge. Stay oriented and in control.

I have a friend in Friday Harbor, another in Oak Harbor on Whidbey. I have been throughout your area. Beautiful cruising grounds.
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Old 23-10-2012, 20:44   #43
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Re: How many people actually fall overboard each year?

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And that is how it happens! One second he's there, the next second he's not. Tim, being a poor swimmer, fully dressed, in cold water, without flotation, panic setting in, was saved only by his hand on the tiller.

I have said it for years and told everyone in ear shot...if one will not become a stronger swimmer at least become proficient in "drownproofing" as taught by American Red Cross. Internet search will reveal the details. Better is to schedule classes. And never panic. NEVER panic.

Thanks Tim for sharing what very could have been your final demise.

It's probably not going to be about "swimming" in a survival situation, but about keeping your head above water. Get exhausted too soon and you'll drown. In college swimming class we were taught to float vertically, completely relaxed. You lifted your arms enough to raise your head and breathe, and then relaxed and went vertical again. Face was in the water most of the time, so no big surprises of waves slapping into your face. For our final, we had to do this in the deep end for an hour. It was very easy. According to the instructor, they taught this to air force pilots in case they had to ditch. You can also do it injured (depending on the injury of course).

Don't know if that's what the RC is teaching.
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Old 23-10-2012, 21:00   #44
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Re: How many people actually fall overboard each year?

It occurs to me that I probably have a different perspective on being a proficient swimmer. I have been around the water all my life. Born and raised in Hawaii, lived on Pamlico Sound in North Carolina for 3 years, a couple years playind around the FLA Keys, sport diver since grade school, SCUBA cert, surfer, HS and college water polo and swimming.

When I say "swimming" I think being calm, cool, collected, at home in the water. It's a state of mind. Absent that attitude one will cause layers of trouble above and beyond simply unexpectedly finding oneself in the water.

I have seen recreational swimmers in such a state of panic that they do not realize they are in a few feet of water...that if they simply stand up.... As a WSI I personally resucitated two people. I was told they would have succumbed if not for my actions. That shook me up terribly both times.

Whatever it takes, a sailor or even occasional recreational day sailor should develop a familiarity with the waters be it through becoming a strong swimmer, classes, or rough water training.
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Old 23-10-2012, 21:06   #45
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Re: How many people actually fall overboard each year?

Rakuflames, that is what the RC taught when I first took their classes. Later, I was introduced to what Jack had shown. But by then I was already well into my adulthood, ie, I already had learned it although not formal training. Actually, what Jack illustrated is a good technique in rough water (like impact zone in big surf) although it is intended for cold water. The point here is rough water like cold water can sap your strength or lead to high anxiety. Needless expenditure of energy hastens hypothermia and disorientation.
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