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Solo overboard

Sep 15, 2009
S2 9.2a Fairhope Al
. I can assure you and the others that unless you're a veritable Johnny Weissmuller reincarnate in loin skin or Speedo only, you're not going to catch it!!
if my boat saw me in these i hope it would just keep going and warn the others
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May 12, 2004
Hunter Cherubini 30 New Port Richey
Eons ago, when I could leap tall buildings in a single bound, I inadvertently grabbed the mainsheet after we righted a Hobie 16. That, of course, pulled in the main and off she went with me in tow. I only had to hand over hand about ten or fifteen feet to the boat, but was so utterly exhausted, I could hardly pull myself onto the tramp. Never happen today.
Also, I keep the stern ladder secured in the up position with a short strip of Velcro and a line attached hanging just above the water. Pull the line, the Velcro lets go and down comes the ladder. Whack!, right on yer head. Always stay clear of the ladder, boss.

BTW: That's some bad hat, Danny.


May 27, 2004
Beneteau 393 Bayfield, Wi
The re

The reality is that if one goes overboard on a tether in "rough conditions", one is most likely to be so disoriented and quite possibly injured (anything from a head injury to broken bones or even be knocked unconscious), that further action in a timely fashion would be improbable. That leaves one being bashed against the side of the boat repeatedly.
It's a wonderful fantasy that you will be able to just snap a second tether to a second jackline and reach a knife, slip down the side of the boat uninjured and still have the ability and strength to pull yourself up a ladder to safety, but I sure wouldn't bet MY life on it.
What's so hard about just not going overboard? Neither I, nor any of my crew have gone overboard in more 50 years in my career as a professional mariner. That includes a circumnavigation and numerous transAts and transPacs under sail long before the term 'weather window' was coined and WWV/H was the ONLY weather source. The point being that back then the chances of encountering "rough conditions" were considerably greater without the sat weather data available to every mariner on the water today.
Prevention in this case, beats thousands of dollars worth of cure.
Capta, like I said, untested theory in my playbook. BUT, for the 5 minutes I spent to rig the second jackline, it's worth a shot. I'd rather have the jackline there to give it a try if I needed to, than not have it there and fantasize about it when in trouble. You're right though...just stay on the boat!
Dec 1, 1999
Hunter 28.5 Chesapeake Bay
While I generally agree with Rick D that self-rescue is an iffy proposition for a solo sailor going overboard, not having a plan in mind, or prepping your boat for such an eventuality, makes it less iffy....
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Feb 5, 2009
Gloucester 20 Kanawha River, Winfield, WV
I can barely board using my swim ladder when the boat is at anchor or even in the slip. The last rung is not deep enough for a foot unless my knees are raised to my chest while I'm clutching the transom hand-hold. Even kneeing onto the first rung is a challenge.
I have a similar problem with my dock ladder. My workaround is a rope loop under the bottom rung. Putting a foot on the rope lets me get a knee up onto the bottom rung where I can pivot myself up.
Aug 13, 2012
Catalina 270 Ottawa
boat will NEVER "stop" to the wind
I meant, it would stop going fast. But it really does not matter that much. As you said you would have to be an olympic class open water swimmer. And even then, it would be difficult.
Aug 13, 2012
Catalina 270 Ottawa
Or you could just tow the dinghy. Or even easier, a kayak. On a 50 foot line at 6 knots you'd have a tad over 5 seconds to intercept the line/kayak. Once aboard the kayak, just pull yourself towards the stern ladder. Supervised practice might be in order.
An average person swims about 1 m/s (olympic athletes twice that). So you would have to be within 5 m (15 ft.) from the (beginning) of line when you start swimming to it. Good luck.

I think that only self-rescue solution is to make sure you don't fall off. That 900' cliff is a good parallel.
Oct 9, 2008
Bristol 29.9 Dana Point
An average person swims about 1 m/s (olympic athletes twice that). So you would have to be within 5 m (15 ft.) from the (beginning) of line when you start swimming to it. Good luck.
Well if the beam is 12 feet, half that is 6, it's well within your estimate.
Or use a longer line.

I think we should get Mainesail to experiment :-D
Feb 13, 2016
macgreggor venture 224 ohio river
Look up the La vegabong videos on youtube, theres a bunch and couldnt tell you which ones they are but that guys does it for fun, granted he starts with the rope in hand and then drifts off, Drags for a bit then pulls himself back in. Im going to follow #1 rule Dont fall off that part seems very important to all so ill follow that.
Oct 1, 2015
Clark San Juan 30 Blaine WA
I plan to do some more solo sailing mostly because i know no one else that sails besides my family, question is has any of you sailors ever gone over board while solo and have to watch your boat sail away or know someone who has!
That is why you always are connected with a harness and a Jack line then that would never Happen. I am connected to my boat every time I am out of the cabin and always wear a PFD no Exceptions ever.
May 4, 2005
Macgregor 26d Ft Lauderdale, Fl
^Right, I've slipped on jacklines and and almost tripped, and generally a PITA, but its still smart.
but we use them at night / offshore, or in very heavy weather. also have MOB pole and horseshoe ready to go.
-also, no peeing over the back at night!
Mar 2, 2011
Compac 14 Charleston, SC
I fell off a Laser 2 while racing with the spinnaker flying in a 10 gusting to 15 breeze. My crewman was still on and tossed me a line and I was drug along behind the boat. As it slowed down to 1-2 knots I was able to grab the rudder blade and wrestle myself back aboard with help from my crewman. We somehow managed to stay upright and went on to win the race. Good thing it was such a small boat.

Rick D

Jun 14, 2008
Hunter Legend 40.5 Shoreline Marina Long Beach CA
There was a guy who was soloing his motor yacht from Marina del Rey years ago to Catalina. If I recall my facts, he was mopping the decks in calm conditions when he tripped and fell overboard. The boat continued on AP. I don't recall how he was discovered missing, but the boat was found largely undamaged on the only sandy beach for miles, engines still running. The CG of course initiated a search but there was zilch to go on. If I recall, his brother and friends brought a power boat up from Dana Point to search. Amazingly, the found him on a traffic buoy. I recall he said he had to fight off the seals to climb up. Bet that stunk! Surprised they didn't slash him. A one in a zillion.
Nov 8, 2007
Hunter 27_75-84 Sandusky Harbor Marina, Ohio
You know, I've been thinking about a centerline rig for my jack lines. I would put a hard point at where we have a stopper block at the forward position of our sliding hatch. A couple of jack lines from there to the bow would keep me inside the lifelines. (our standing rigging all attaches at the toe rail.) I could rig a tether on a jack line with the harness end in the cockpit, then swap the cockpit tether for the jack line tether if I was going forward.

The only catches I see are switching the tether to the side I want to use, and un/re-rigging them to clear the forward hatch when in port/at anchor.

Hmmm... Another idea. Rig a single jack line from the starboard bow cleat back around the port side of the mast to the strong point on the starboard side of the forward cockpit bulkhead. Now it's ideal for moving up the port side. It's workable up the starboard side as far as the mast. Then, clipping around the mast is possible. With this arrangement, the tether would keep me at deck level, even if I fell over the lifeline.
Oct 30, 2011
klidescope 30t norfolk
So I read all this and it's got me thinking on my boat the main sheet is on a cam cleat so I could tie myself to bitter end . Most of the time I'm on broud reach so falling off and being dragged would tighten main causing headsail to blow boat down to wind eventually come back around and backwind sail might give one time to reboard . I'll have to try using something heavy that floats maybe tie to dink and hold on and watch
Dec 28, 2010
Catalina 380 san pedro
I do have a loop line attached to my boarding ladder so with a sharp tug the ladder is free to deploy. My primary reason is that if someone falls in the drink at the slip I found it difficult if not impossible to climb onto the dock with wet clothing. Several have drowned in local marinas when this has happened. The one time I did fall in it was winter and fairly cold and I had a heavy jacket on. Thankfully I was not engaged in the partaking of alcoholic beverages so I was able to pull myself onto a dock after a bit of a struggle. Had I been able to deploy the stern ladder it would have been quite a bit easier.
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Sep 17, 2015
1985 Ericson 32-III Everett
if you had a gizmo clipped to you that would send a signal to the autopilot to turn the boat around if you fell overboard.
I've used a low-tech version of that idea for...decades. When I was doing deliveries, I'd trail a small fender on about 150 feet of floating polypro line. The boat end of the line is tied to a pad-eye, with a loop around the throttle lever. So if I fall off the boat - even motoring at 6 knots - I have about 15 seconds to find the line and grab it. When I do, it pulls the throttle lever to idle... so "in theory" the boat will stop, I can pull myself back to it and use the line to pull myself back on board.

I've tested it but never had to use it for real, hope I never need to. By far the best option is to make sure you stay on the boat.

These days I wear an inflatable with built-in harness (Spinlock), which has a number of things clipped to it - PLB, knife, strobe, whistle and (when I remember) handheld VHF. If I do wind up in the water, I should be able to get some attention. But, again, the goal is to never need to... so I routinely clip into something solid on the high-side when I go forward, and "usually" am clipped in even in the cockpit if it is "sporty" out.

Oh, and yes, I've used jacklines. A lot. With some discipline, they're quite usable, but I prefer clipping into hard points (padeyes, etc)
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Jun 4, 2009
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
Or you could just tow the dinghy. Or even easier, a kayak. On a 50 foot line at 6 knots you'd have a tad over 5 seconds to intercept the line/kayak. Once aboard the kayak, just pull yourself towards the stern ladder. Supervised practice might be in order.
The kayak would remind you there's a line in the water, reducing the chance of fouling.
Combining this technique with an AP disabler would be interesting.

I would never do it. Too big a pain.
However, it might be good piece of mind for someone worried about solo MOB.
I'd be really interested to know if anyone here ever tried to board a dinghy or kayak that is being towed at 3 to 6 knots in rough weather?
Again fellas, unless you are in your 20's and in pretty amazing physical shape, this is NOT a viable option, even if you could keep it from flipping while trying to get in.
Remember, in reality one should not be falling overboard in calm conditions.