Tips For Going Overboard
- Just as you must assume that one day you'll encounter heavy weather, you should also assume that one day you will have to go overboard. And, just like you should assemble an abandon ship bag before heading out to sea, put an emergency repair bag together too. Include a mask, snorkel, sharp serrated knife, a tube of quick setting underwater epoxy, rags, bungy cords, and a few basic tools. If you scuba dive, a small pony bottle, and regulator would be a terrific addition.
- While still aboard, try to determine how far you will need to dive below the waterline. If the leak or problem is not low on the hull, the first thing you should do is put on a PFD. Unfortunately, if the leak is low on the hull, a PFD will prevent you from diving deep.
- Launch a buoyed float astern, preferably with floating line. A large fender works well as a buoy and polyester line floats. Also, launch a PFD, or horseshoe style float, on a separate line aft.
- If your boat does not have an aft boarding platform or stern step, try to rig the boarding ladder as far aft as possible, preferably on the transom.
- If there is any sea running, heave-to before going overboard. Once hove-to, the boat will create a slick to weather and a lee downwind, making it easier to work and climb back aboard. Although the boat may have a bit of forward motion, it is much steadier in the water than a boat lying ahull.
- Keep your distance from the hull, especially in large seas. Begin your dives well outboard of the hull and be sure to push off and swim as far away from the hull as possible before coming up for air.
- Rig an easy-to-open bag that you can tie around your waist. If you need to work with tools underwater, rig short lanyards and tie them to your wrists
- Don't waste energy. Work efficiently in the water and take time to rest. Don't underestimate how exhausting it is to tread water in even moderate seas. Save your strength for getting back aboard.
- Always have someone aboard keeping a close watch on the person in the water.
- As a last resort, or if the the work project is going to take a lot of time, launch the inflatable dinghy as a platform from which to work.