How To Rescue A Sailboat At Sea

Our friend Ben Strong at AMVER has asked gCaptain to help with a request. An article and, eventual, ebook is being written for ocean going sailboats on how to prepare for the worst case scenario… namely rescue by a merchant ship at sea. The writer of the article, Steve Brothers, has put together a list of questions he’d like help answering. But any thoughts, experiences, etc on the mechanics of getting small boat crews aboard big ships in inclimate weather is appreciated. Here are the questions:

[B]I’d like to solicit input from the “experts” out there (sailors, ship’s captains, rescue professionals, etc.) regarding the following outline for a 10-15 minute presentation specific to ship-assisted rescue. This presentation would fit into the current Safety at Sea session curriculum for “SAR organisation and methods” and would cover the following:[ol]
[li]What are the typical ship-assisted transfer methods and what are the risks associated with each?[/li]> [li]How does the ship type affect the transfer methods available to you (e.g. - cruise ship vs. merchant vessel, freighter vs. tanker, etc.)?[/li]> [li]What are the options for getting up the side of the ship onto the deck (e.g. - hoist, ladder, cargo net, line, combo, etc.)? How far is it from the water to the deck?[/li]> [li]How do you evaluate the transfer methods in relation to the condition and stamina of yourself and your crew members? How do you prepare everyone for what is to come?[/li]> [li]What is the safest platform for your transfer (e.g. - the boat, the water, a dingy, etc.)? How do you prepare that platform?[/li]> [li]How do you plan and coordinate the rescue with the ship’s Captain, in light of the communication challenges typical to such situations?[/li]> [li]How do you secure your crew/self to a line from the ship? What do you do with the life ring? How do you deal with a Jacob’s ladder or cargo net? How do you deal with a hoist?[/li]> [li]What dangers do you need to prepare for and watch out for during the transfer (e.g. - hulls crashing together, rig slamming the ship and a mast failure, timing of transfer, etc.)?[/li]> [li]What should you expect once you get safely aboard the ship, and how does that affect your preparation for the transfer (e.g. - ditch bag contents, etc.)?[/li]> [li][I]What else do you need to know based on the above?[/I][/li]> [/ol]
With the help and advice of some generous experts already involved, I am currently producing the content for this presentation. It’s obviously critical to get this right - so the input and participation of racers, cruisers, rescue professionals, and merchant mariners alike is invaluable.[/B]

Another successful rescue at sea off Florida recently:

I say bring the boat close alongside and then drop a lifeboat on top of them


“The Thome managed vessel, MT Nord Nightingale, was in transit from Houston, Texas, to Akrotiri, Cyprus, delivering fuel for the U.S. Air Force”

It’s nice that our government works so hard to make sure foreign flag ships and mariners benefit from our tax money.

So buy a tanker and compete for the small amount of US government tramp work out there.

Don’t need to … they already own (or have on long term charter) 5 or 6 of them. If they are all too busy there are plenty more for sale … they can buy a dozen for the price of one F-35.

Besides, if I bought one, despite the law that says they have to use an American flag ship, they would just hire whichever FoC company bought them coffee that day.

Well, the signal to noise ratio at that place sucks, but I’d still ask at Sailing Anarchy.



I donot hope that Ben Strong is trying to reinvent the wheel as this subject is already described in some detail by an IMO document named: “Guide to recovery techniques”.

The document says for instance: Many ships are required to have ship-specific plans and procedures for recovery of persons from the water and IMO has agreed that it is beneficial to have recovery procedures planned for any vessel.

Anyway the captain of the Carpathia had no trouble picking up, in just a couple of hours, 705 Titanic survivors. A ship plan will be different for almost each ship as it depends on the availability of rescue tools like pilot ladders, cranes, derricks, gantries, nets, boatswain chairs, rescue baskets etc. I suppose that this also should be trained, but the ship schedules of these days and limited crews will probably offer a challenge. For instance throw that bad cook over the side with or without a swimming vest and try to rescue the bugger…