Going overboard doesn't bear thinking about but there's a rigorous procedure to follow aboard Adele if the worst happens, and various means of retrieval


First thing is shout very loudly Man Overboard and at the same time hit one or both MOB buttons at the steering position. This releases Jon Buoy canisters from the stern railings and sets off an audible alarm.

The Jon Buoys might need a shove but once in the water they should release an inflatable ring and a conical high visibility element with a lifting becket. Next to the Jon Buoy is an orange lifebelt, a floating line and an orange smoke canister all of which should be deployed. An accidental deployment of the starboard smoke canister in the Antarctic demonstrated perfectly what they look like in actionsee picture.

Getting MOB equipment overboard is paramount but the chart plotter/GPS MOB button should be pushed simultaneously so that a position is shown on the chart. Adele also carries eight personal EPIRBS for those on watch and also personal strobe lights.

Falling into the water in Antarctic conditions when the water temperature is close to zero will give you something in the region of 20 minutes to half an hour survival time although people differ widely in their ability to survive and your chances will depend on what you’re wearing. Inhalation of water through shock can, however, drown you sooner.

But if the yacht does get back to you in time, Adele has several means of retrieval. In flattish conditions the side-boarding platform can be lowered. It’s at water level and used as a diving and tender platform. Then there is a three-part side ladder, which can be lowered over the side and a rope ladder with wooden treads is also very effective in rough conditions. The RIB, which doubles as an MCA approved safety boat could be launched if the victim needs additional help. The crew must be able to launch it in less than five minutes – in fact Adele’s crew can manage it more quickly – and there must be means of launching it manually using winches.

If the victim is in the Jon Buoy a line could be attached to the lifting becket and winched aboard. In extremis, if the MOB is alongside, another member of the crew could be dressed in an immersion suit, tethered and put into the water to assist retrieval.

But the adage, ‘don’t go overboard in the first place’, is a deadly serious one. When you see that water rushing past at 14 knots in the black of night or even in a cresting sea in the middle of the day you soon realise that the chances of a successful rescue in these conditions are probably going to be slim at best.