Views of our stuff

Safety Matters

Notes and images from a safety practice session on 6th November 2011

click on images to view a larger version

Man overboard:

Shout Man overboard!

“Man Overboard”

Someone has to keep visual contact and point at all times in order not to lose track of the MOB.

Don’t lose track of the MOB

Cox manoeuvres boat back to MOB, preferably head to wind so the boat does not drift away from him. If at sea the best way is a tight circle to get back to the MOB.

Approach MOB head to wind

Cox advises crew which side (s)he is bringing the MOB alongside. They are careful not to hit the MOB with their oars.

Raise oar so as not to brain the MOB

 When MOB is grabbed, front two rowers row slowly to keep the boat head to wind and on station. Two of the aft two rowers and cox bring the MOB in over the side,

Help the MOB back onboard

allowing the boat to tip over towards that side so the gunwale is as low as is safe to make recovery easy. Third person uses their weight to keep the boat tilted but not too much.

Nobody said it would be dignified

Casualty is assessed for shock and cold, put into the reflective suit in the safety bag, and kept on the floor for shelter from the wind. Treatment for hypothermia and shock is now the main priority so the boat takes the casualty back ashore a.s.a.p. If necessary ring for an ambulance or car to meet the boat so no time is lost, maybe at a nearer RV than the boat’s base if that will save time.

If the casualty is very hypothermic and the boat is far from access then a 999 call to the Coastguard may be in order.

The sequence in film:



Trying to push the Gunnel under

Today we filled the boat near the shore, by putting nearly all the crew as far to one side as possible. It took nearly all of them and the filling up was gradual.

Put a bit more weight on it

When she was full John could still sit in her with only his legs in the water and she floated upright with about 4 inches of freeboard amidships,

and more fore and aft. She was unstable with so much water in her but sitting amidships he was able to bail her with a bucket to the point where others could get in and help.

This probably wouldn’t work with waves

I demonstrated that if I got in the stern while she was swamped, the stern went under.

Trying to reach the bilge pump just sinks the stern (and fills ones welly)

But John on his own was able to recover her. In big waves it might have been more of a struggle to bail more out than was coming in over the low sides. If all the crew had tried to sit in her she probably would not have supported them. In an emergency situation they would have to remain outside the boat but hanging on, while one crew member bailed out the first quarter or so of the water. Then the rest could get in and help bail.

It is necessary to make sure that the oars and other equipment do not float off.

Swamping is only likely in surf, i.e. heavily breaking waves. The most likely place to find surf is close to a shore, launching or landing. Otherwise in big waves one stays away from shallow places where the waves are breaking. In big waves in deep water the boat is so well behaved as we already know, she hardly takes in any water. The cox needs to keep pumping out any loose water in the boat before it starts to slosh about and threaten stability.

If the boat fills when she is on a shore she needs to be moved out of the sea very quickly before the waves hitting her pound her to bits on the beach and destroy her. Swamped boats are very heavy and can’t be pulled up when full, so need to be tipped over towards the sea to shed some of the water. Bucketing is too slow in this situation. Then they can be pulled up a bit more and the tipping repeated.

Some movie footage which illustrates just what a slow process this is:



If a boat’s crew cannot manage to make progress against the wind or tide, they may get swept on to rocks or out to sea. This may be for a broken oar, a medical emergency or just from fatigue. The anchor will allow them to park the boat safely while they have a rest, deal with the emergency, have lunch or wait for rescue.

The boat goes head to wind and the front rower unhooks the anchor and lowers it into the water, by the chain first and then the rope. (S)he lets out enough to be at least 3 times the depth of water.

Lower away

Letting all of the rope out is fine (check that the bitter end is made fast to the boat). The boat will drift downwind until the rope gets taut and the anchor bites.

waiting for the bite

Then she will lie head to wind and safely face the waves, riding up and down as the waves come. The motion will be bouncy

Bouncy it is

but the crew is safe. Looking out to one side of the boat and lining up two objects on the shore will allow the crew to decide if the anchor is holding or dragging.

Finding your transit marks

If it is holding, the objects will stay in line but if they appear to be moving, re-anchoring will be necessary.

To raise the anchor the boat can be rowed towards the anchor by the two aft rowers, so that the anchor handler does not have to pull the boat against the wind with the strength of their arms. When the anchor is back in the boat all the rowers can get back to rowing.

4 Comments on “Safety Matters”

  1. doryman says:

    Thank you, Topher!
    I think DoryMan readers need to see this – a person never gets enough safety training. The fact is, you are most likely to assist a MOB from another boat, so it’s good to always be ready.

    michael b.



    Looks like you all had an interesting day, I have serious withdrawal symptoms, see you all next week, Fiona :o)


  3. Emma Griffiths says:

    Brilliant exercises, pictures and comments, thanks. Andres has already shared a link with the rest of the RowPorty folk, will recommend people to check it out.


  4. Hugh Mackenzie says:

    Excellent stuff. The pictures answer the questions we didn’t dare ask!!!
    Do you think there is a case for carrying buoyancy bags in bow and stern and/or having closed foam above and below the thwarts for your comfort and safety.
    Hugh NBRC


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s