The sea’s rough, the wind’s strong and the temperature’s dipped below the 0˚C mark. To compound your misery, you’ve just accidentally fallen overboard and are currently in a state of severe shock. For sure, your lifejacket has inflated and its concealed tracking device will be alerting others to your situation; but, right here, in the now, these facts provide scant comfort. You’re rapidly losing body heat, drifting from your vessel and beginning to panic.
This is the scenario encountered by many MOB casualties during the period between actually going overboard and regaining physical contact with the vessel. Add a dose of severe nausea and a distorted perception of time, and, convinced that your crew mates are doing little to help, or taking too long to swing into action, it is barely surprising that you may be tempted to ‘flip out’ in the space of a minute, if not sooner.
“The psychological aspect of MOB recovery is crucial,” Jeremy Dale, managing director of Isle of Wight-based LSA manufacturer SeaSafe Systems, tells Ship & Boat International. “You need to ensure that the MOB is re-connected to the vessel in the minimum amount of time possible. Larger rescue systems, such as MOB recovery nets, do a good job; even so, the boat needs to pull up to the casualty first, and then deploy the system. It’s a time-consuming process and, for every second the casualty is still adrift, there is an increased likelihood of them panicking as well as the risk of them drifting beyond the crew’s reach and becoming lost at sea.
“Once casualties start panicking and flailing about, it increases the difficulty of safely retrieving them and tends to make flushing inevitable. With seawater seeping under the lifejacket and further reducing their body temperatures, flushing can immobilise MOBs at an earlier stage than might have been the case had they remained calm. Panic leads to mistakes, for both the MOB and the rescuing crew, and probably causes more damage during the MOB scenario than any other factor. If we can eliminate this panic at the earliest stage possible, it increases the likelihood of a successful, safe rescue.”
Dual-sling harness system
This rationale has led to the launch of SeaSafe’s new MOB recovery system, monikered the QUIKSLING, which made its debut trade show appearance at Seawork in June. The device looks relatively simplistic, which is the manufacturer’s intention; resembling a rectangular version of a traditional life ring, albeit equipped with a harness, the throwable QUIKSLING has been designed as an easy-to-use and easy-to-store, compact alternative to larger and weightier recovery nets.
The QUIKSLING was originally conceived by George West, a pilot boat coxswain with plenty of experience of the hazards of MOB retrieval when operating in sub-zero temperatures. Adopted by SeaSafe, the unit has undergone a round of sea trials (including trials conducted off the Isle of Wight by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution) and entered full-scale production.
Weighing approximately 3kg, the QUIKSLING features a dual-sling harness system, which is connected to the frame’s detachable side mountings. Once the MOB has hit the water, the rescuer throws out the device, whilst maintaining hold of the rescue line.
Even the simple act of grabbing hold of the frame can do much to improve the MOB’s outlook; just knowing that they are re-connected to the vessel can buy the MOB the peace of mind that they are no longer adrift and that the rescue is in progress, dampening the natural reaction to panic.
The MOB then lifts the frame over him-/herself, the hollow of the frame providing ample room even when a lifejacket is inflated. Dale explains: “Once inside the hollow, the casualty is inside two slings: a chest sling, detachably mounted to a leg sling.” Both harness and frame are jointly connected to a single lifting point, at the extremity of the rescue line. “Without prompting, the casualty’s arms rise up and drape out over the frame, leaving the way clear for the rescuer to tug the tension-activated chest sling inwards from its detachable mountings, and to capture the casualty under the armpits,” Dale continues.
“The frame provides flotation while the casualty is being drawn closer to the rescuer, and the double sling recovery ensures a safe, low ‘deckchair’ posture for the hoist aboard [as recommended by SOLAS]. Prior to lifting out, the frame needs to be plunged under water, but the rigid shape of the frame means this is easy to achieve.”
The compact nature of the QUIKSLING also means that it can be installed aboard a variety of small-to-medium-sized vessel types; covers are available for protection from the elements, should the operator wish to keep the unit(s) permanently on deck.
Lifejacket ‘in disguise’
The family-run SeaSafe may be better known for its range of lifejackets, which it has been producing at its Cowes facility since the late 1960s. The company recently bolstered this range with the latest addition to its Sea Trekker series, titled the Navigator. The Navigator is produced in a sleeveless gilet style, with an inbuilt hood, thus serving as an all-in-one jacket; SeaSafe states: “With the Sea Trekker Navigator, no one would realise the wearer has a lifejacket on.” This may be a preferred option for boaters who will be spending equal amounts of time on the jetty, who may not favour the restriction of keeping an overlying lifejacket fitted at all times, and/or repeatedly removing and re-donning it throughout the day.
The Navigator is fitted with a self-righting 170Newton inflation system which automatically inflates upon immersion. A rear mesh panel enables ventilation, and the jacket has been specifically designed to be as lightweight as possible, weighing 2kg when dry. Whilst seemingly appearing to be a summer racing jacket, the Navigator is also equipped with: retro-reflective tape over the shoulders; front webbing straps, for hands-free carrying of devices such as a compass or VHF radio; a lifting becket with stainless steel D ring; a crotch strap, with a detachable clip; a SOLAS-approved automatic light; gusset and flare pockets; and two outside zipped and fleece-lined pockets. The jacket also features a knife or Maglite holder, secured under a Velcro flap.