Man Falling Overboard at Sea.

If by the wind, down helm; cut away the life-buoy; flow the head sheets, and let go the main top-bowline, main-tack and sheet, and lee main-braces, which will bring the sails aback of themselves. Haul up the mainsail by the buntlines only, (as the clew-garnets cannot under such circumstances be worked,) and lower the lee quarter-boat as soon as the headway is lost, and before sternway commences, observing to pass a rope's end into her from forward.* If the ship be going free, with studding-sails set, bring by the wind on the other tack; brace the main-yard up, and leave the head yards square. For if the main-yard be left square, it is obvious that the ship will be long coming to, will shoot further ahead, increase the distance from the man, and add materially to the delay of succor. If it be blowing fresh, however, great judgment is necessary to right the helm in time, or the ship will fly to, too much, gain stern-board, and risk the boat in lowering. With regard to this point, a well-known English writer (the late Captain Basil Hall) says; "There is more mischief done generally by lowering the boat too soon, than by waiting till the fittest moment arrives for doing it coolly. And it cannot be too often repeated that almost the whole depends upon the self-possession of the officer-of-the-watch." The same author further adds: "If possible, the ship should not only be hove a-back when a man falls overboard, but she ought to be brought completely round on the other tack. Of course sail should be shortened in stays, and the main-yard left square. This plan implies the ship being on a wind, or from that position to having the wind not above two points abaft the beam. The great merit of such a method of proceeding is, that, if the evolution succeeds, the ship, when round, will drift right down towards the man. And although there may be some small risk in lowering the boat in stays, from the ship having at one period sternway, there will, in fact, be little time lost, if the boat be not lowered till the ship be well round, and the sternway at an end."

If the wind be directly aft, come to on the side on which the man has fallen; and if at night, take the bearings of the man, put a compass in the boat, and hoist a light at the peak.

* This manner of proceeding was in two separate instances practised on board the frigate "United States" in 1846, and the man saved, although the ship was going over eight knots at the time of the accident.


Murphy, John McLeod & Jeffers, W.N. Nautical Routine and Stowage, with Short Rules in Navigation.
Henry Spear, New York, 1849. p 38.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

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