358. Man overboard.—Plain sail, on a wind.—Let go the life-buoy, put the helm a-lee, call the boat away, and direct the signalman not to lose sight of the man. Bring the ship up into the wind, to deaden her way (taking care not to bring her round or to give her sternway), square the main yard, haul the mainsail up, and shorten whatever sail is necessary. The practice of going about, under these circumstances, is in many respects very objectionable. The cry of "man overboard!" in the most perfectly disciplined ship, is sure to be attended with some confusion at first, which becomes "worse confounded" when followed by the pipe of "hands about ship!" repeated and spun out by half a dozen boatswains'-mates. How much more quiet and simple is the order "square the main yard!" But the great and conclusive objection to it is, that, ten to one, the cause of it all will be lost sight of — in the literal sense; and, after getting the ship round and lowering the boat, then will arise the question of "Where's the man?" The signalman will say that he was last seen on the quarter, but, as the quarter in the interval has been performing a circuit, the reply becomes anything but satisfactory. The boat in the mean time is probably vaguely striking out astern, and what with the hailing here, and answering there, anarchy in the end is pretty sure to reign triumphant. What a contrast does heaving-to present. The boat shoves off, unembarrassed by doubt; the signalman has had nothing to distract his attention; and should the former pull half a point wide, a flag over the stern will correct her course. At all times at night, and more especially in the event of the life-buoy not being fired, the above remarks apply with still greater force.
It may be urged, that by going round, the ship is placed to windward of the man before the boat is lowered, and, therefore, she will reach him quicker than she would were the ship hove to on the original tack. But, granting that she does reach to windward of her former position (although the main yard is squared in stays), where is the gain? Though the boat in this case pulls to leeward, it must not be assumed that, when the ship does not put about, her boat must pull to windward; for, as the man falls from the ship and is in her wake, the boat must necessarily have the wind and sea abaft her beam; and in either case the ship can bear up, if necessary, and get to leeward of her boat to pick them up.
Letter M means "pull to starboard," N "pull to port," and Q "keep as you are going".
Plain sail before the wind.— Put the helm over, and come to the wind with the head yards aback, hauling up the foresail, and setting the spanker.
Studding-sails on one side. — Put the helm a-lee, trip up the lower studding-sail, or let go the outer halyards, let fly the studding-sail tacks, brace up the after yards, and bring her to the wind with the head yards square. The studding-sails will fly before all, where they will be becalmed, and must be hauled down principally by the deck sheets. If you put the helm up to take the studding-sails in to leeward, you run a most unnecessary distance away from the man; whereas, even in a fresh breeze, you run no risk by letting fly the tack of a weather studding-sail, for the sail flies to leeward clear of everything.
Studding-sails, both sides. — Round to with all despatch, but in this case you must take everything in properly; for, if you let fly tacks and so forth, before the controlling gear can be manned, you will find "the more haste" to be "the less speed".
In each of the above cases, both quarter-boats, when possible, ought to be cleared away and lowered as speedily as possible, and the life-buoy let go instantly, except in a very light breeze and when the man falls from forward, when you should hold on a little to come up to him, and then let go. Beware too, of committing a blunder which I once saw nearly perpetrated, of dropping the buoy upon the man's head.
Cases are not uncommon of men being drowned after they have been seen to get hold of the life-buoy; and, as on two occasions, I have seen it turn over with a man, it is very probable that to that cause such accidents are owing — the man being in an exhausted state and unable to get hold again. The proper way to hold on, is to put the feet on the rest at the bottom, on on each side, and throw the arms over the cross-piece; whereas an attempt to get on it will result in a capsize.
The circular cork life-buoys are so handy for throwing to a man, that is well worth while to carry one on each quarter for that purpose.
Boat's gripes, instead of being secured to an eye-bolt in the chains, should be set up to a strop with a thimble in it, passed through the eye-bolt, and retained there by a slip-toggle with a lanyard attached; which has therefore merely to be hauled upon to free the boat.
The steadying-lines should be of chain, with a hook on the ends; rope ones give, and are seldom hitched square. If they are too taut, an undue strain is brought upon the gunwale; and if too slack, the boat is not steadied.
To hoist a quarter boat up in a sea-way, there is no combination of "gil-guys" that you can invent equal to jackstays from the davits, set up to bolts at the water-line. A lizard is fitted to each, which travels up and down; a turn whipped round the thwarts, and the boat run up, clear of the side, without further ado.
Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius
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Copyright © 2002 Lars Bruzelius.