Person-in-Water (PIW) Retrieval (dockside)


  • Practice the skill of bringing a person in the water onboard a boat using appropriate equipment and techniques, and to determine limitations in successful retrievals.

Setting Up the Drill:

  • Equipment: swimmer; alternatively a MOB manikin, or buoy with sufficient weight to simulate a PIW.
  • Secure boat alongside a dock where all the people in the class can observe.

Conducting the Drill with a Swimmer:

  • Swimmer enters the water and a person in the class brings the swimmer onboard. The swimmer acts as a conscious PIW and provides some assistance during the retrieval.
  • Swimmer feigns unconsciousness. A person, acting alone, attempts to recover the swimmer onboard.
  • Two people attempt to recover the feigning unconscious victim.

Conducting the Drill with a Simulated PIW:

  • Simulated PIW is deployed in the water and a person in the class brings it onboard as if it were a live PIW while using and/or describing appropriate technique for type of boat and conditions.
  • Two people demonstrate and/or describe technique if retrieval of the simulated PIW requires more than one person.

Teaching Tips:

  • The drill using a swimmer takes a significant amount of time, but it highlights the difficulty in bringing an “unconscious” PIW onboard.
  • While a swimmer is desirable for a realistic PIW retrieval, conditions of the water (temperature and pollution) need to be considered.
  • Use of a manikin is more realistic than a buoy with a weight, especially when simulating an unconscious victim.

Common Errors:

  • Using a retrieval method that may harm the (PIW) or the rescuer.


  • Safe Powerboating Handling On-Water Skill Standard 6.2 and its rubrics
  • Start Powerboating Right! textbook pg. 138
  • Safety & Rescue Boat Handling On-Water Skill Standard 3.3 and its rubrics

Safety, Rescue & Support Boat Handling textbook pp. 36, 37