Tether Lanyard Simplifies MOB Recovery

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For years, safety advocates have touted the use of a four-part block and tackle attached to the end of the boom as the hoist of choice. It affords a great dockside demo, but put to use in a rolling seaway, a crew quickly notes that boat motion causes the boom to flail about and the hurriedly dropped mainsail further complicates using the boom as a hoisting tool.

The lack of a topping lift and the result of overloading a rigid vang can cause the outboard end of the boom to dip so low that the hoisting tackle is chock-a-block before the victim can clear the rail. Adding a preventer and setting up the mainsail halyard as a makeshift topping lift will help tame the boom, but theres a far more efficient way to hoist a victim out of the water. All it takes is a spinnaker halyard and a two-speed self-tailing winch. It gets even more useful if you add a 10-foot pennant with a spliced eye and a small diameter, jawed, heavy duty, latching-type snap shackle.

Tether Lanyard Simplifies MOB Recovery
A ten-foot length of line with a Tylaska shackle can be attached directly to the tether of a person in the water.

Adding the rescue pennant increases the reach of the spinnaker halyard and allows a rescuer to clip onto a victims harness, Lifesling or tether. Theres an extra value provided by this approach. The small-jawed snap shackle will trap a laterally loaded and twisted free tether clip (see adjacent photo). Plus, its easy to set up by a rescuer rather than needing the victim to secure the halyard.

For example, in the CV30 incident, Simon Speirs was dragged alongside the big sloop for five minutes while those on the foredeck were unable to haul him back aboard. The bowman had the right idea when he went for a spinnaker halyard. Unfortunately, Speirss webbing attachment point on his inflatable PFD was pulled taught and was so hard to access that Spiers was unable to clip on the halyard. To expect a victim being dragged in the water to make this connection-whether or not the tether is taught-is bound to fail.

An alternate approach, afforded by the halyard pennant eliminates the victims role in attaching the halyard. This approach eliminates the need to connect directly to a ring or webbing on the victims inflatable life jacket.

The halyard snap shackle is clipped to the spliced eye in the pennant and the pennants snap shackle is clipped around the victims tether webbing by a person on board. As the halyard is tensioned, the PIWs head and shoulders lift out of the water.

In the CV30 situation, the fouled, laterally loaded jackline clip failure may still have occurred. But the victim would have remained attached to the boat via the small diameter, robustly built, snap shackle (Tylaska T-12 pictured). Such a heavy duty snap shackle would have prevented the damaged tether clip from slipping through its latched jaws. This would result in ongoing attachment to the boat and a means of lifting the person back aboard. It does not require the PIW to clip themselves on and it prevents a laterally loaded, failed tether clip, from releasing the victim.

No technique is perfect, and when employing a halyard recovery, especially in a significant seaway, its important to keep the victim from becoming an active pendulum. They can be accelerated by pitch, roll and yaw and their three cousins surge, heave, and sway.

The best way to accomplish this is with another crew using a short line to keep the victim from swinging as the rig gyrates in the seaway. Ideally, theres enough crew to handle the vessel and still have at least two people available to cope with the halyard connection and winching up the victim.

The double handing crew that loses a person overboard becomes a single hander and faces a major challenge when it comes to the recovery maneuver and getting the victim back aboard. The Lifesling, or a similar device, is their best friend, because it provides a streamlined means of making contact with the victim, adds extra floatation and is keeps the PIW connected to the boat ready to be hoisted from the water.

Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on marine products for serious sailors for more than 45 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising or any form of compensation from manufacturers whose products we test. Testing is carried out by a team of experts from a wide range of fields including marine electronics, marine safety, marine surveying, sailboat rigging, sailmaking, engineering, ocean sailing, sailboat racing, and sailboat construction and design. This diversity of expertise allows us to carry out in-depth, objective evaluation of virtually every product available to serious sailors. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser with more than three decades of experience as a marine writer, photographer, boat captain, and product tester. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.

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