MOB is such a big concern that many of us ignore it. In this series Noel Dilly shares some thought-provoking and controversial ideas about MOB recovery

MOB myths busted – Part 4

MOB: securing the casualty


Retired anatomy professor Noel Dilly has been cruising for over 70 years. He now sails Whisper, a Rustler 36, with his wife Sandie

You’ve managed to get the boat back to the MOB. What next? Many sailors’ assumptions are dangerously wrong.

Myth 9: You can throw the MOB a line and pull him alongside a moving boat

This is much easier said than done. Anyone who has experienced water skiing will know how hard it is to hang on with the loads developed by a tow. If the boat is moving, it is only possible to tow an MOB if they are attached to the rescue line. Most swimmers can only hang on at speeds below three knots. It is made more difficult for the MOB because his sodden clothing and inflated lifejacket will make it much harder for him to adopt the optimum position for a tow. This is dangerous.


Though he’s definitely in the sling, Kieran hasn’t managed to get the horseshoe around him. They are not a helpful shape

Myth 10: A towed sling will follow in the boat’s wake


Here is Noel’s customized horseshoe buoy. Note the open drogue, a sling round the horseshoe with an easy-release clip if being towed and a 30m line with reflective tape for visibility at night in a canister

The wind can carry the sling sideways. A drogue is needed to keep the tow line taut. Unfortunately, most commercially available small drogues don’t work well because there is no provision for keeping the mouth of the drogue open. A ring of springy wire sewn into the aperture is my solution. It can be squeezed for storage and will deploy when the drogue is deployed.

Myth 11: An MOB wearing an inflated lifejacket can get into a sling

The awkward position and the large, inflated collar of a lifejacket make this a difficult manoeuvre even for a competent swimmer. It is even more challenging to get into a ring lifebelt.


Despite his inflated lifejacket, Kieran easily passed the sling around his back and could see the clip to refasten it

The hazard is that the sling ends up around the neck and the MOB either has their neck broken, or is towed with the dire consequence of drowning. To avoid this hazard and to help the casualty get into it, the sling should be floated down open. This way it is possible, even when you’re wearing an inflated lifejacket, to pass the strop around the waist below the lifejacket and secure the free end.
This of course does not eliminate the towing risk. Any rescue line attached to the boat must be fitted with quick-release snap shackles at both ends so either the crew or the MOB can release it. The line should float and both ends should be fitted with floats. If the line has to be dumped by the crew, the second pass will be made easier by having the floating line to assist in recovering the MOB.
A sling has to be buoyant and easy to get into. A solution is to put a 3m (10ft) strop around the outside of a horseshoe lifebuoy. Then it is easy to get into the loop and enjoy the added buoyancy.