This is an interesting discussion as I did a "recovery" this past Sunday. I was single
handing and returning after a lovely sail. I was tacking the final leg and decided that I would drop the main and get ready to traverse the mooring
field and pick up the mooring. Winds were about 15t.
I was on auto pilot, steering head
to wind and released the halyard
. I have a Dutchman system so the sail will usually flake down on its own, but needs some help. I went forward to do just that at the mast
and a gust of wind took by hat off.
I decided to retrieve it... a sort of MOB drill. I quickly tugged the main down so it was mostly down (I was also moving at about 4 knots or more at the time), went aft to the cockpit
and turned the auto pilot control 180° and stepped up the RPMs. I was thinking that the reciprocal course would be parallel to the one I was on because of the turning radius. So I would have to look to the side the boat turned when it made the arc
The hat was dark green and I thought I will not be able to pick it our in the waves and light conditions. How true!. If I did not sail pretty close to it, I would never have seen it. The gps
MOB feature is useless because I needed to be in the cockpit
not below watching the GPS. I could have tossed the MOB rig in, but I didn't want to create panic as there were several boats around and one that I was "racing" back who was now astern of me a few hundred yards. Why ruin their day?
I did motor past the hat but did not have my pole handy to pick it up so I slowed way down and got the pole and did another 180. Now the light conditions were even worse and I thought I lost my chance. But luck would have it and I spotted it and slowly approached using the autopilot
. I went to mid ship to pull the hat up with the boat which was still making a knot
or two of way. Of course another sail boat was approaching as I was doing my retrieval and I contemplated giving them right of way as they were sailing and had no idea what I was doing out there. Luckily they passed far enough away, I was able to snatch the hat, do another 180 and complete the prep for the mooring pick up. Mission accomplished.
A MOB pole is essential to spotting someone in big seas, also bright color and a strobe. The MOB gos feature is handy if it is handy and for cockpit plotters this would be the first thing to do... with someone at the nav station below it would work as well. But if you are only two on board, it might be better to have all eyes/hands on deck
and have them ready to do the retrieval.
Sailing back to a point with a large yacht is a tough one. I would just luff the sails and use the motor, although in a small yacht the sailing approaches might be fine. Not my case so I won't be doing that.. unless I have no motor.
I think tossing a cushion overboard and doing a retrieval is something every sailor should do from time a time... and don't wear bill caps when it is windy!