September 2006

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Boaters Can Learn From Crew-Overboard Rescue

Symposium; Final Report Now Available Online

Going overboard is every recreational boater's worst nightmare.  Nearly 200 lives were lost in 2004 alone due to falls overboard. 

However, if someone does go over the side, a crew that knows the latest rescue methods and has the right retrieval gear will be able to make a quick rescue according to a final report from the Crew Overboard Rescue Symposium now available for free at

At the symposium, held August 9-12, 2005 on San Francisco Bay and funded in part by the BoatU.S. Foundation, 115 volunteers conducted almost 400 tests of 40 types of rescue gear and many maneuvers. 

Using volunteer "victims" who went into the water, testers addressed questions like, "What's the best way to make contact with the victim?",  "What methods work best for bringing a victim back on deck?",  "Is there any chance of rescuing an unconscious victim?", and  "Do swim platforms help or hinder rescue?"

The final report includes information keyed to different types of power and sailboats involved in a recovery.  Also included is a "lessons learned" section with comments from symposium organizers, who between them have a total of nearly 200 years of recreational boating experience.

The report's author, nautical journalist John Rousmaniere and a member of the organizing committee, said, "Rarely do rescue equipment and maneuvers undergo this kind of comparative testing in public trials under conditions that typically prevail when people fall over the side."

Testing was done on 15 sailboats and powerboats of nearly every type (including multihulls) in conditions that ranged from flat seas to 35-knot blows.

Ruth Wood, president of the BoatU.S. Foundation and a member of the organizing committee, said about the final report, "Everything we learned was relevant to the average recreational boater, such as the importance of practicing overboard maneuvers and the challenges some boat designs present when trying to recover a victim.

We hope that by sharing this easy-to-read report more boaters will make smarter decisions and improve their chances for successfully recovering a guest, family member, or crew from the water."