Respond to navigational emergencies - MF201A - Tool - 10_01

Respond to navigational emergencies


Searching for a Person Overboard

If visual contact has been lost with the person in the water and the area of the incident is known, a search pattern can be used to cover the area.

Remember: notify the Rescue Authorities, by putting out an urgency message on the radio (Pan Pan) and display the Man Overboard flag `O' to notify other vessels that are in the area.

The search patterns are: -

Expanding Square System

Expanding square system

This system starts at a point closest to where the person was observed; original mark on the plotter would be used.


The diagram shows the pattern. The distance between the tracks will depend on height of lookout and weather conditions but should be such that each sweep should double up on detection area.

Sector Searching

Sector searching

If the particular incident position was noted and the conditions indicate that the person may not have drifted far from that particular point, the sector search pattern may be used. Remember with this turn all changes in course are 120° to starboard.

If the person has not been detected on completion of the first search adjust the original line by 30° and recommence the search pattern. Distance for each leg will vary for types of vessels but may be 1-2 nautical miles, and can easily be gauged by time and constant boat speed.


Person Overboard

This is a situation where the person is seen going over the vessel's side.

Person overboard situation should never occur if procedures are carried out correctly.

If a person does fall into the water:

When a person has fallen overboard from your vessel it is unlikely they will have any type of flotation device, therefore it is absolutely necessary to make sure the life buoy or some other type of flotation is thrown over as soon as possible. If they can swim (it is possible they can’t!) they will have something to hold onto.

It is advised that a priority radio call and message be sent to the local rescue group, especially if it happens in open water, and in the event that the person is lost from sight.

Types of turns (for the recovery of a person overboard)

The “Y” Turn for Small Craft. (Aka: Short Turn Round)

This manoeuvre involves turning the helm hard over to the side the person fell over (1). Engine is put to neutral and then reverse, the helm is taken to full opposite lock, and power is applied (2). Engine then put through neutral to forward, helm is put to the same side as at first, full lock (3).

Power is applied until vessel is on line with person in the water. Slow down and affect recovery. Make sure propeller is not turning when alongside the person for recovery.

The Y Turn for small craft

The Elliptical Turn

The Elliptical Turn


The Williamson's Turn

This is the most popular turn due to its ability to be used for most situations e.g. person overboard, person missing, large vessels, small vessels, rough or calm water.

The Williamson's Turn

REMEMBER: it is a requirement within the USL Code and State Marine

Legislation to regularly practice the Person Overboard drill and record the drill in the vessels log.

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