Man Overboard Equipment

Having proper man overboard equipment is the Master's responsibility. MOB equipment should be easy to locate and easy to deploy. The equipment must be rugged and dependable. It should be simple to use and require minimal servicing. Basic MOB kit should contain:

  • a Dan buoy or Man Overboard pole with an attached life ring, whistle and strobe light.
  • at least 1 throw bag with 50'/15m of line.
  • the boat's mounted life ring or horseshoe buoy as required by law with 50ft/15m of line attached. It is very easy to tape/tie a whistle and a strobe to the boat's life ring.
  • an additional option is a Lifesling© permanently secured to the boat, designed to be dropped behind the boat and used in the rescue manoeuvre described below.

Most sailboats carry a mounted Dan Buoy easily secured to an aft rail. For power vessels, there are collapsible Dan buoys and inflatable Dan Buoys that are easy to store, taking up minimum storage space.

A Dan Buoy is easy to deploy – simply throw it into the water towards the MOB. The person in the water may be able to easily see it and swim towards it. The helmsman can see it as he/she manoeuvres the boat back to the MOB

Throw bags are an easy-to-deploy device. Usually containing 50 feet/15 m of floating line, they can be tossed underhand a fair distance with good accuracy. The goal is not to hit the MOB! A toss that gets the line to the MOB is sufficient to enable them to secure themselves. Do NOT tie the line to yourself – you need to be able to release it if necessary. If you miss, simply pull the line back in, letting it coil at your feet. Loosely flake it into the bag and toss it again. Once the MOB has caught the line, secure your end to a cleat and draw them alongside. Practice.


A boarding ladder is a vital piece of safety equipment and is mandatory in many jurisdictions. It is tempting to rely on the aft swim platform> However, in rough seas, this can pose a serious threat to a MOB as the stern slams down. Amidships is a much more stable location.




Your boat will also have a life ring (horseshoe in the USA or round in Canada) mounted astern, with 50 feet/15m of line secured to a cleat. On the Great Lakes, this is a legal requirement.



An excellent piece of proven MOB kit is the Lifesling© designed by The Sailing Foundation.

None of this man overboard equipment is of any use if it is not mounted and readily available to deploy.


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