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Piers and Lin du Pré are the owners of the Fleming 55 Play d'eau, based in Beaucette Marina, Guernsey in the Channel Islands at N49° 30’.197 W002° 30’.350.

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Man Overboard

The height of Treguier’s the 30m pontoon is 2.5 feet off the water
click to enlarge

It happened so quickly

In our report on Tréguier marina we made the point about the strong tidal flows which pass diagonally through the pontoons. Given this, mooring should always be into the current.

Well, there was an incident two days before we left.

Man Overboard

A large yacht chose to moor on the other side of our 30m pontoon. This meant mooring with (not into) a 2-3 knot current with its added effect of pushing the yacht away from the pontoon.

As it approached, I went to help and asked for the stern warp to stop their forward motion.

Instead, I was thrown a breast warp and asked to secure it. By the time the warp was passed, the current had already drifted the yacht 6’ from the pontoon.

By now, it was a no-win scenario. His position and the tide combined to make a retreat impossible, and mooring was going to be a challenge.

The tide took control

With the breast attached, the tide took control, swinging the stern out and the bows in. The tension on the breast line was unbelievable.

Lin (and Richard from Yacht Whileaway) were trying to fend the bows off the pontoon which in itself was impossible given the force of the tide against the hull even though the skipper was applying full opposite bow thruster.

Two crew managed to jump off the bows onto the pontoon to help, and someone came running over from another yacht.

”It happened so quickly”

Lin suddenly saw one of the yacht’s crew in the water just a few feet to her left and some four feet ahead of the bows. He was just managing to hang onto the edge of the 2½’ high pontoon with his fingertips although the tide was doing its best to tear him away.

His saving grace was that he was wearing his life jacket which had inflated.

Although Lin was shouting ‘man in the water’ no-one could hear. There was far too much noise from the bow thruster and general shoutings.

Making secure

Taking the yacht’s bow warp she made it off on a cleat, knelt down and stretched to feed the end under a shoulder, around his back, under the other shoulder and up. He was now looped and tethered and less likely to take off.

When she began shouting again, I heard. Leaving the breast warp to the others I went to Lin, saw what had happened and that the MOB was temporarily safe unless the yacht began moving forward. Telling him not to go away, I ran to Play d’eau’s warp locker, chose one and fed it around him in the same way Lin had. Lin could now retrieve her warp and I’d be able to ‘walk’ him to the lower pontoon to attempt a recovery.

Retrieval

Looking for ladders, there weren’t any.

Speaking to him, I said, ‘Come on, you’ve had a dunking, now you’ll have a swim. I’ll walk you to the lower pontoons where we’ll get you out. Let go of this pontoon, relax and enjoy the ride.’

The tide was tugging at him, strongly. We crossed the walkway and stopped by a lower pontoon. More help having arrived, we managed, after a struggle, to pull him out.

He still had his new boots on, although one had been sliced through in two places.

I walked him back to Play d’eau where I told him he’d have a shower. Standing in the aft cockpit, I deflated and removed his life jacket. After he’d taken off (almost all) his clothes, I led him to the guest shower and shut him in with soap and a fresh towel.

It took another ten minutes of straining on a stern warp by the skipper, his crew and three others, to bring the yacht’s stern in and moor up.

MOB lessons learnt

You may not hear the cry ‘MOB’. General noise can drown (forgive the pun) any shouting.

Wearing a life jacket, and one with a crotch strap, probably saved his life if that doesn’t sound too melodramatic.

Retrieval was hard, even from the lower pontoon.

One boot was sliced in two places which just goes to prove that barnacles are razor sharp and grow on the underwater parts of the pontoon – those parts you use when trying to get out.

There are no pontoon ladders at Tréguier marina.

All in all, a salutary lesson.

Piers and Lin
From the Sick Bay of
Play d’eau
Fleming 55

You can get in touch with us any time by using our Contact Form.

10 comments to Man Overboard

  • Diccon

    Wow that sounds dreadful, as you say its amazing how quickly a situation can turn bad especially with a bad decision. At the point the boat started drifting the captain should really have realised the problem and changed their mind – or was there no room to change by this point?

    Well done to you both for assisting and for quite possibly saving that chap a very long and wet walk back once he managed to get to a shore had noone seen him.

    • Hi Diccon,

      It was one of those horrid situations where once the decision was made to commit to moor, reversing out of it could not have worked. The tide had secured its grip on the yacht, drifting it towards other close moored yachts, he was at some 45 degrees to the pontoons, the wind was against him, there was insufficient room to manoeuvre and I doubt there was anywhere near enough power available.

      All would have worked well if the stern line had been attached first. One of those decisions made in all good faith that just went wrong for one simple reason, only.

      It could have happened to any one of us. There but for the grace of…as they say. Apart from the MOB, all ended well.

  • Patrick J. Colahan

    Nice work on Lin’s part. Placing that line around him to prevent the situation from becoming any worse.

    When Mother Nature chooses to make things difficult there is no way you can work against her. Of course coming into the dock or pontoon working with her is always the best but not always an option.

    Bow and stern thrusters are great but limited in their ability to maneuver against both wind and tide. Don’t ask me how I know this. I have used the midship line as a spring and powered into a dock in such a situation. But, space and conditions don’t always allow this. From your comments sounds like a stern line used as a springer would have worked.

    Great part is a bad situation that could have resulted in a far more horrific situation was averted thanks to Lin and your actions.

    Just returned from our scheduled haul out in Anacortes. Had the bottom done and some running gear worked on. We spend 5 days on the hard. The trip to and from the yard was 5 hours each way. There were others closer but the quality of work the yard we chose does was well work the cruise.

    All the best to you and yours.
    Patrick

  • Robbie

    Well done Lin for her swift actions saving this guy. Shame her warning wasn’t heard. Would a whistle have helped, isn’t there one on a life jacket? Surely the one ‘take home’ message here is to always follow instructions. Not try to be the clever clogs who thinks they know better. I love following your travels, and am intrigued to know your winter plans. Love to you both.

  • Patrick J. Colahan

    Sorry, Here are two working links.

    All the best.
    Patrick

  • Hil

    What a drama-a serious one.How extremely lucky he was that it was you and Lin there.It must have been rather frightening but I guess you are on heightened alert on those occasions.I still think it is so lucky it was you both with your very quick reactions and calm and intelligence.Did you celebrate afterwards-and were they grateful.Lots of love,Hil x x

  • aethra

    Amazing website I found you very easily.A great rescue Lyn.Iwanted to thank you properly for the lovely welcome you gave us in Yeu.

    We returned north to meet our family in Haligan–We must all be thankful for the lovely weather and especially the gorgeous beaches etc in Yeu. Best Wishes, Ann and Richard

    • Hi Ann and Richard. So pleased you found the website and like it! You must have been exhausted by the time you reached Yeu. Yes, it’s been such a great summer and we’re only now reaching the end of our three month cruising plans for this year. Just reached St Helier where we’ll meet some friends for a few days before heading back home to Guernsey.

      Let’s hope our paths cross again next year. With best regards and a glass or three of wine! Piers and Lin

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