689. Ques. You are suddenly startled by the cry of "a man overboard!"

690. There is nothing, on board of a vessel, that creates for the moment a greater excitement, or spreads a more general panic over the whole crew. Their best feelings and energies are suddenly excited, and forgetful of every other consideration, than that of extending an arm to save a fellow being, they rush aft in a body, without a thought, or settled purpose of action. Here the influence of the officer must be exerted promptly, and on the instant, to turn their feelings and energies in the proper direction, to the only mode of rescue.

691. Ans. The moment the cry is heard, you should order the helm to be put down; whether sailing free, or on the wind, bring her up and shake the sails, which will deaden her headway; until you can reduce sail and heave her to, for a while headway continues, though diminishing, you can, by the helm, keep her lifting, and prevent her being taken aback. In the meantime, issue the following orders distinctly, and in a manner that will command instant obedience. Keep silence fore and aft! Every man to his station! Cut away the life buoys! Lay aft the cutter's crew, and clear away their boat!

691 a. "The best authorities recommend," says Captain Basil Hall, "that if possible, the ship should not only be hove aback when a man falls overboard, but that she ought to be brought completely round on the other tack," &c. &c. We are of the same opinion, if the vessel was on the wind and with a stiff breeze, for the same reason that he advances, "that she will then, having her main yard aback, drift down directly towards the man." Therefore, if on the wind, the officer should order, ready about! hauling up the mainsail in stays.

692. If on the wind, Stand by to haul up the mainsail! Man the weather main and lee cross-jack braces! Let go the bowlines and lee braces! Up mainsail! brace aback! The moment the lee braces and bowlines are let go, the yards (from being already in the wind), will fly around themselves (589); then keep the head yards full to steady her, while the after ones stop her headway. You are now as in 664.

693. If you are sailing free, with studding-sails set, man the lee head braces, clew up the lower studding-sail, brace up the head yards, haul forward the fore tack, and keep the head yards full, while you luff up to back the after ones; and you may, if the after yards are not square, brace them in; while doing which, haul down the topgallant and royal studding-sails, or if you have not time, and the wind is fresh, let go the studding-sail tacks, and haul them down after the vessel is hove to.

694. while this is being done, the boat is ready for lowering, with the crew and an officer in her; Lower away! and direct them which way to pull.

694 a. Great care must be taken to lower the boat at the proper moment, as soon as the vessel's headway has sufficiently ceased, to ensure the safety of the boat. An attempt to lower the boat too soon, may prevent your saving the man, and endanger the boat's crew.

695. If the manœuvre is performed readily and in the shortest time possible, the officer of the deck, though he may lose the man, can only feel, in common with all on board, a regret at the melancholy accident, without having upon his conscience the bitter feeling that he might have saved him.

696. It may be proper here to remark, that, in many cases the lives of some of the crew, particularly those stationed on the yards, are frequently endangered by the negligence of those who are attending the braces. The officer should be particular, when the men are on the yards, to keep the braces fast, and, if necessary to brace them, have the braces well attended, and give them timely notice of his intention, warning them to "look out for themselves."

697. There are cases in which an officer may have reason to hesitate as to the propriety of lowering a boat to rescue a man, such as in a gale of wind with a heavy sea, or in a dark squally night. The struggle, in such a case, will be great, between his better feelings and his judgment. The former might induce him to risk his own life to save a fellow being, but he has no right to risk the lives of a whole boat's crew in a hopeless attempt to save one man; his responsibility will be great, but his judgment must direct him.

698. In these, as in most cases, a sailor will rush blindly into any danger, under the orders of an officer he respects. And an officer cannot be too careful, in subjecting these most willing instruments to unnecessary or too perilous situations.

Benjamin J. Totten: Naval Text-Book. Letters to the Midshipmen of the United States Navy on Masting, Rigging and Managing Vessels of War. Also, a Set of Stationing Tables; a Naval Gun Exercise, and a Marine Dictionary.
J.J. Little & J. Brown, Boston, 1841.

Transcribed by Lars Bruzelius

Sjöhistoriska Samfundet | The Maritime History Virtual Archives | Seamanship | Search.

Copyright © 2002 Lars Bruzelius.