Real-life COB Experience
by Rochelle Richelieu
I had a recent experience as crew during the Friday night races that made me realize and appreciate the great training I’ve had through Club Nautique in all areas, but especially around MOB.
We had a full boat. Most of the crew (not all) was experienced and had been consistent as crew on that boat. The conditions were favorable for the boat we were racing. We do well in heavy winds, and we had them with 24 kts, gusting 25-29 with a flood. With those conditions, we were definitely heeled with our rail in the water a good part of the time.
Because of the number of people on board, we had at least one person on the rail, crossing under the main across the cabin top with each tack. It was during one of these tacks when that crew member went overboard.
As she was crossing under the main, the toe of her shoe caught under the lines/sheets coming across the cabin top. We were tacking from a port tack to a starboard tack and she was on the port side trying to move to the starboard. As the boat tacked and began to heel to port, she lost her balance and fell backwards over the port rail. She didn’t hit any part of the boat, just flew backwards and into the water.
It was startling how quickly it happened. For a nanosecond, I was in total disbelief. Several of us called out “Man Overboard” and the skipper appointed someone to keep an eye on her.
As I mentioned, we had experienced crew and were able to recover her quite quickly. However, it wasn’t as organized or calm as it could have been. Immediately, my brain went to my training, and I started going through the steps in my head. It was clear that while everyone knew pretty much what to do, memories were fuzzy. The reality that this wasn’t a drill, but a person in the water also tends to muck with one’s memory, and certainly one’s composure. Practice is critical in order to compensate for the surge of adrenaline that flows when you have crew in the water.
I just want to thank Club Nautique and ALL the instructors for pushing so hard on the MOB practice. As you probably imagine, many of us would think “not another MOB drill”. Having my first real life MOB experience, I realize those drills are probably the most important training I received. Especially the ones in difficult conditions, like out at the Farallons (Wayne Shen) or with multiple system failures (Peter Leib)
A few lessons learned:
- No one outside the cockpit unless they are a seasoned racer and understands foredeck duties and risks
- Remind everyone – ALWAYS one hand on the boat
- Limit the number of people on board, even for fun Friday night races
- Assign roles any time you are on a boat and run through a basic MOB checklist. You never know who knows/remembers what
- Be sure all safety equipment is on board, accessible and functional
- When racing or in close quarters with other boats, be sure to radio that there is a person in the water.
- Even if you aren’t the skipper, it’s ok to remind him/her of the steps to take. Just respect that he/she is the skipper
- A drill is quite different than an actual MOB. Remember to breath, keep calm and do what you’ve been taught to do.
- Never stop practicing MOB. I know that next week my husband and I are going to do some practice on our own boat.
Happy and Safe Sailing,