Woman swimming 11 km from Dutch coast saved

The Belgian yacht who discovered the woman waving for help could not hoist her on board, provided her with a life vest and warned the Coast Guard.

Begs the question, WHY?

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It seemed that she was heavy set. The boat was manned by an elderly couple, that didn’t help I suppose. Also the woman in the water was hypothermic. It isn’t easy to get a could grip on a probably non cooperative heavy body. I don’t think that there was a swim ladder on board. Everybody is puzzled how she managed to swim that distance. Maybe there was some kind of surface current.

There is one plus, if she had been skinny she would not have survived the cold water of the North Sea.


Sounds more like a floater than swimmer. Picking up MOB’s is hardly ever easy even when they’re in good shape. I’m guessing that lots of yachties who don’t have a paid crew don’t even think about having gear ready and practicing.


It’s very likely she was picked up by a current. I read about a child on an inflatable swan to whom this happened not long ago. It also happens to surfers and kayakers.
If she was hypothermic, she was probably unable to assist in her own rescue. She is very lucky to have been spotted at all. The further out you are, the tinier the needle in the haystack.
And rescue gear on the yacht? The bar is probably far better stocked than the gear locker

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Some clever guy thought why not use the forces of nature as present in a moving ship as it has a lot of pulling power as we all know. He developed the Catch and Lift system to hoist a drowning person on board the ship. The operation of Catch and Lift is simple, because the system works as explained on the basis of simple physical principles.

Packed in a watertight box, the system consists of a turning block, a long line and a parachute anchor. All that is needed is to lift the drowning person on board quickly, safely and without using much muscle power.

The helmsman throws a line with a seat belt attached to the drowning person. This belt is easy to “put on” in the water. The line runs through a turning block to a package that is thrown into the water. The package with a ‘water-soluble’ casing contains a parachute that, when folded open, generates resistance in the water.

The resistance of the parachute anchor in the water pulls the drowning person on board via the turning block with the speed of the boat. The helmsman does not have to deviate from the steering wheel and regulates the speed of the retrieval with the speed of the boat. When the drowning person is on board, the other side of the line can be taken out of the water with the parachute.

The Catch and Lift system costs €499. A mounting set for attachment to the guard rail is €69. In case of a life threatening MOB situation this is money well spent.


biggest issue was lack or a harness so they couldnt get the person on board, i’ll bet?
The above gear would help but still got to get a harness on the person.
STD life jacket is designed for you to climb up a ladder, has no provision for others to hook you up and winch you on board.

Rescue sling

The rescue sling is furnished with a red tether that is marked with a 2. This rescue sling has several functions:

  • Heaving line: approx. 40 meters of floating rope stowed in two pockets.
  • Brake function: when the floating rope is unstrapped, the two pockets fill with water. The rescue sling can be steered to the person in the water with pinpoint accuracy regardless of wind conditions.
  • The rescue sling is used if the person in the water carries no life jacket or the life jacket is not equipped with the lift device to which a snap hook can be hooked.
  • A snap hook: if the life jacket is equipped with a lift device, the red snap hook should be hooked to it. It can be hooked easily even with cold, stiff fingers. This snap hook is identical to the snap hook on the pulley.

See the full story here.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, something as simple as a standard life ring at the end of a polypropylene rope would make it possible to pull the person to the swim step of a powerboat. On a sailboat with no swim step , a halyard can be used to pull the person aboard once they are alongside. Good thing the lady survived; leaving a MOB in the water for lack of gear, preparedness or all out effort would weigh heavily on my conscience.

all looks good in the brochure but very difficult in rough water with a person cold and numb.
Getting the person on board is the number one issue that has no answers.
Call the chopper as you need a sky hook

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Another possibility is to use an inflatable tender for when anchored. Most have a small electric propulsion contraption for the dinghy as well. However, the person to be saved must be in rather good shape to be able to board the dinghy.


I’ve spent quite a bit of time teaching MOB recoveries in sailing classes and there are answers. As I posted earlier, it’s never easy even under the best circumstances and heavy or out of shape MOBs require a lot of effort but it’s not impossible.

Once we had a 70kg Saint Bernhard dog, a lovely family member.

I wouldn’t have tried to lift him on board a boat without a bathing platform.
Single-handed (one hand for the dog, the other for me…) he was too heavy, and he had no ‘handles’ to lift him… without killing him.
In an inflatable dinghy he could not climb by himself, but with a little help this was OK…

A problem, when you try to lift the body for instance amidships, is that a lot of the effective lifting power is lost because of the heel of the boat which eats away quite some lifting power.

Trying to get the victim out at the stern, where this effect plays less, is dangerous because it has been known that the person slips under the ship making things much worse.

These are quite popular in the PNW of the USA:

With the block-and-tackle available from the manufacturer, one person can lift even a heavy person out of the water. Our crews drill every year using it, pulling each other out of the water in survival suits. Some of our freighters have small davits to rig the tackle from. For the drills we just use a lifeboat with the tackle attached to the mast.

Like anything else it takes practice though. For example, if you are lifting a heavy person out of the water with the tackle rigged to the top of the mast on a small boat, the person will swing like a pendulum if you raise them too high. At first the small boat lists over radically as you pull them free of the water. Then the body swings through the air to the opposite side, and everything shifts over instantly, and the guy is suddenly swinging out over the opposite side. The technique is to dump the body in the boat quickly once it clears the rail.

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Another one. Lalizas "Safe Up Safety Railbag- Ladder for Sailboat & Yacht, Folding Step Ladder, Telescopic Boarding Ladder, Man Overboard, Rescue Steps, Permanent or Emergency Ladder.

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There is a large number of boat designs and scenarios requiring flexibility but I’ve never run across people slipping under the stern. Can you elaborate?

No, I cannot. I tried to find the site which mentioned that this happened to one victim but no joy.

Personally I would think that, especially in small boats, the victim could be best pulled over the stern so keeping the weight in the boat balanced.

In the above case at 11km offshore I assumed the boat would be bigger than a daysailer and not susceptible to the weight of one person being hauled aboard. I don’t see any danger bringing someone aboard over the stern unless the engine is in gear with the prop turning which could foul the line or slash the victim.

If you have never tried it, getting a person back on the boat that isn’t able to climb a ladder without really hurting them is far from an easy task.
I have a Lifesling as pictured and while it would work better than nothing, you are still going to be dragging someone up the side of the boat and any wave action will make it all the worse. You really need to try it for a couple of reasons, once of which is that and the other is the condition of the line. When we went to play MOB the first thing I had to do was chase the wasps out of the thing and the next thing I had to do was try and untangle the unholy mess of sun-melted polypropylene water ski line. It was a giant ball of yellow goo :frowning:
The next day I bought some “dinghy tow” line, which is high quality non-goopy floating line and I make sure and get it out every so often to make sure it is not tangled nor inhabited by wasps.