When we read about a sailor lost overboard in the storm, we think about PFDs and personal locator beacons, and accept the sea is unforgiving. When we read of novice boaters drowning in a local lake, were sad, but say that will not happen us because we wear PFDs. But when we read of a PFD-equipped sailor falling overboard and dying within minutes its a real eye-opener.
Most sailors are familiar with Thor Heyedrahls adventures aboard his balsa raft Kon Tiki. Some may remember the self-rescue line that they dragged behind the boat. Since the raft travelled so slowly, this last chance line gave a fit sailor a sporting chance to haul himself aboard.
Considering the short comings of existing leg loops for harnesses, we designed an add-on set of leg loops that can transform any ISO 12401 chest harness into a harness capable of safely distributing the force of a epic fall, without adding significant weight and without inhibiting wearer moment.
Man overboard gear standards are behind the times because the sample size is tiny and the facts surrounding an accident are often clouded and disguised by difficult circumstances. But fixing this is pretty simple; piggyback on standards that have been developed for climbing and industry. The following are just some of the steps that a sailor can take to improve his chances of staying on board.
The December, 1993, issue contained an in-the-water test and evaluation of 16 different Type IV life preservers (cushions, horseshoes and ring buoys). Besides their throwability, flotation and the ease with which a person in the water can get to and utilize them, an important consideration was said to be how quickly these Coast Guard-required "throwables" can be detached from the boat and made available to the man overboard. …
World sailing offers fairly explicit expectations regarding jackstays. And PS offer its own additional advice, including one that recommends jacklines ideally be installed so that a sailor who is clipped in cant go over the side (see Jackline Installation Advice, November 2015). This is not always possible, especially on monohulls. In most cases, he chest-high lifeline on Mahina Tiare will keep above water the head of the person who is overboard.
The hallmark of an overboard fall protection system is a system of jacklines running along the deck, with tethers attached so that the sailor can move throughout the boat with relative freedom. But this is not the real backbone of the system. A review of overboard accidents reveals that very few fall when transiting from cockpit to bow-they get washed overboard when they stop to perform a task. While moving, sailors are focused, holding on with two hands, and mindful of the approach of waves and the motion of the boat. But while taming a headsail or straightening up a tangle of line in the cockpit, the mind wanders, the hands are occupied, and risk increases. A wave strikes, we tangle our feet or step on a sail, and whoosh . . . were overboard.
Rules of thumb are rather useless when it comes to equipment that is stored in a locker and then used roughly. Weve broken lots of new and old equipment during testing and learned a lot about what to look for, but even so we are often surprised when good looking equipment fails and scratched up stuff works fine. Inspect closely and often, regardless of age.