No. 63 - June 1985


John Charters (#1000)


Last month, we discussed various testing procedures used by the Sailing Foundation and found that getting a person out of the water by some of the conventional methods is not too effective. We also discovered getting the boat to the person to be rescued is not all that simple either. The Foundation tried various boat handling methods. They began the test by using a long trailing line in an encircling movement as in picking up a water-skier. (See figure 1.) The first test used a life raft at the end of the line. Although the life raft had great maneuvering characteristics, this was judged impractical as Coast Guards tank tests had shown if one is tiring quickly, it is not likely one would have the strength to get into the raft. The cost, maintenance, lack of easy storage and unreliability of an instantly available inflatable raft were judged to be negative factors.


Trailing a horseshoe on the other hand gave the victim adequate flotation and security; however, when it came to the transition from horseshoe to lifting sling they found the same problem with boat drift. In addition, the victim was apprehensive about releasing the horseshoe to get into the sling. They build a sling with a type IV PFD flotation and named it "Lifesling". A skilled boat handler can accomplish a pick-up in seven minutes - even in 35 knots of wind. With practice, even novice boat handlers were able to effect a pick-up - the best recorded time was 7.5 minutes.


In essence, the Lifesling is a horse collar-type device with the addition of sufficient approved foam to meet Type IV requirements. (See figure 2).


The Lifesling can be affixed to a tackle and the tackle to a winch, if necessary, for ample power to pull a heavy person aboard. The Lifesling also provides flotation, which is critical during the pick-up procedure. Finally, with

the sling attached to the boat by the trailing line, constant contact between man overboard and the boat is maintained. So the skipper can douse his sails and set up the pick-up without fear of the person drifting away.




1-All crew on board.

2-Man Overboard -  Luff and stop the boat. Toss over LIFESLING.

3-Go about with jib aback.

4-Tether pays out of bag as boat circles.

5-Gybe. Do not touch sheets.

6-Circle person in the water close aboard towing LIFESLING.

7-Continue to circle with jib aback. Floating tether and LIFESLING contact person in the water.

8-Stop the boat. Drop sails. Then pull victim alongside

9-using tether. Tie off and rig hoisting tackle.


A cautionary note - this system will not work with someone who is unconscious. However, it requires only a minimum effort to get into the sling; and once that is accomplished, the victim will not slip out.


For further information on the Lifes1ing, write to:

The Sailing Foundation

7001 Seaview Ave.

N.W. Seattle, WA. 98102

Tel: (206) 784-2653


and the Lifesling is available from:


Schattauer Sails

6010 Seaview Ave.

N.W. Seattle, WA. 98101

Tel: (206) 783-2400