It is pretty simple. Let's say you are heading upwind, since that lends itself to the easiest description. When the person goes overboard
, you immediately head
off, more towards a reach, for a few seconds. The actual time depends upon the boat. The faster it is, and the more momentum it has, the longer and lower you head
off. After the time that is appropriate for the boat (you can find this out easily by doing this, once) you do a quick tack without tacking the jib. Point the bow(s) to leeward of the victim. This is very important. When you get near the victim, head up into a hove-to position. The boat will come to a gradual halt, ideally just to windward of the victim. If you need a bit more oomph, just head down for a second or two. I have taught this for almost twenty years, and most students are able to get right back to the victim in under a minute, without ever getting that far away. On a big cat you WILL get farther away, as there is more momentum to kill, but moving more quickly still means you will get back in short order.
If this is too complicated, just heave to the instant the person goes overboard
, and you will most likely still stop within about fifty yards of the victim.
Here is the philosophy behind this. When we teach MOB drills in sailing schools, it is not truly a real world situation. In almost every case, the goal is to pick up the lifejacket or cushion or whatever is thrown overboard. These are really good sail handling drills, but the boat often gets too close to the target (sometimes running it down), almost never comes to a stop, and if it does so (and even if it doesn't) depends on either rolling up the headsail or letting it luff, which causes all sorts of violent flogging of sheets
. Very unsafe, in reality.
By using the method I described, the sheets
never need to be touched, the boat can be stopped, or very nearly stopped, and the sails
do not luff. Everything is in relatively calm shape, which is good. It can also be done singlehanded, or with an untrained crew. Why is this important? Most cruising is done by couples, so either person had better be able to do the whole maneuver unaided. And, ask yourself, when you go sailing with a group of people, do you drill them until they can do one of the established maneuvers? No? Join the crowd. So, in reality, if something happens, there will be lots of chaos, the sails will be flogging all over the place, and there is a good chance that the maneuver will fail or take too long.....just look at the statistics.
Finally, when someone goes overboard, in reality they are either in shape to help themselves get back on board or they are not. If they are, not only do you not need to stop right on top of them, but it is dangerous to do so. Much better to come to a stop a half boat length or so away, and they can swim over. They will have only been in the water for a minute, two at the absolute most. But, for this to work, you have to be able to STOP, which you can't do using the regular maneuvers. Sooner or later, the bow falls off and the boat gets going again. And it is safest to have the sails under control, not luffing, and not having required to be rolled up.
If the person can NOT help themselves (let's say he or she is unconscious), then the only alternative is for someone to tie themselves to the boat, and go in. Yes, I know that the book tells you never to do this, but what would you do if a loved one was floating unconscious in the water? Right, you would go in. And, again, the crucial thing is for the boat to be STOPPED and under control. This you cannot do using the other techniques.
To sum it up, most MOB maneuvers never really stop the boat, run the risk of the bow falling off resulting in the boat getting moving again, involve flogging sails and sheets, and need lots of practice, which is why they are great sail training aids in sailing classes
. But the most likely number of crew is two, one on the boat, and one in the water. Not a happy situation.
If, on the other hand, you simply heave to, you will not be more than fifty yards away, much closer in the average monohull
. It is a simple maneuver, the boat stops, and there is no chaos. Not much need for training, either. If you do the maneuver I described above, you can come right to the MOB. I used to practice picking up coke cans out of the water off the stern of my monohull
...that is how close you can get. But, it is better to stop a short distance away, and either wait for the MOB to paddle a few yards to the boat, or be in position to do go in the water. The boat is STOPPED, otherwise you could not reasonably get in. It will not start again, either, until you either steer to leward and gybe around, or let the jib go over to the leeward side and complete the tack. Neither will happen unless you do it. The heaving to can be done without touching the sails, with little practice or training and singlehanded.
You can do this in a cat, or at least in a Leopard
45/47. When teaching ASA
114 (cruising catamaran), I always throw this maneuver in, as well as the normal MOB drills, which students have to demonstrate in order to pass. Guess which one the students always prefer?
Since there are many ways for a person to go overboard, and many situations in which it can happen, and since they are such good sail training drills, you should learn all the classic ways to pick up an MOB. This would included the figure eight and quick stop methods, for starters, as well as some way to come back to the target if you are going down wind with the jib poled out or a spinnaker
up, which are the worst situations, by far. And, don't forget that you have an engine
(or two). But try making heaving to the method of choice. It is so easy and so safe.
Your other question involved heaving to without a jib. You can often stall a big cat by sheeting the main all the way in, and then heading slightly off head to wind. The boat never gets much way on, and keeps trying to head up and stop. Sometimes a cat will back up, briefly and then move forward briefly. On some boats (including some monohulls), you can get the boat at right angles to the wind, with the main sheeted right in, stalled, and the boat has no drive forward at all, and just slide slips. This is very much a classic heave to, since you are in your own "slick", but if the wave action is significant, you are beam on and "in the trough", which may be uncomfortable and, particularly in a cat, potentially unsafe.
I am sure there will be other methods described. Try them...you will have fun learning
a few things about your boat.
Hope this helps. But, do your best to keep everyone onboard!