Person-in-Water (PIW)/Crew Overboard (COB) Rescue


  • Practice and develop the boat handling skills of taking immediate and proper action when a person falls overboard and to successfully maneuver back to the person in the water in a safe manner.

Setting Up the Drill:

  • Equipment: a simulated PIW (Oscar) and Type IV throwable device on each boat.

Conducting the Drill:

  • The 1st stage of the drill is the falling overboard or crew overboard portion. Oscar is dropped in the water, simulating a crew member going overboard, and the operator swings stern away while dropping a floating object such as a Type IV throwable device as an aid to help keep the PIW /COB in sight.
  • In the 2nd stage, the operator maneuvers the boat to a position 4 to 5 boat lengths directly downwind of the PIW. From this position the operator commences a controlled approach using minimum control speed. The speed should be such that reverse is not required.
  • The operator positions the PIW on the designated side while the boat drifts to a stop alongside.
  • In 3rd stage, the engine is turned off when contact is made with the PIW, and the PIW is tethered to the boat.
  • In the 4th stage, the PIW is brought to a position of retrieval (ladder, etc.).
  • Each boat practices the drill with each person onboard successfully completing the operator’s maneuvers.

Teaching Tips:

  • Emphasize “Crew Overboard” hail as soon as Oscar falls in the water.
  • Use of the avoidance turn to swing the stern away from Oscar.
  • Immediately deploy a Type IV throwable device which will help the “spotter” to keep sight of the PIW.
  • Role of “spotter”
  • Approach the PIW at minimum control speed headed into wind, keeping the PIW toward the side of boat (typically on the operator’s side to enhance visibility). Reverse should not be needed to stop the boat.
  • Turn off the engine as soon as contact is made. Tether the PIW to the boat to ensure contact is not lost.
  • Method of bringing the PIW onboard depends on the PIW’s size and ability to help, the strength of the operator or crew, the type of boat and its freeboard as well as retrieval equipment (ladder, step, rescue net, etc.).

Common Errors:

  • Turning too soon onto the final approach.
  • Steering the boat directly at the PIW on the final approach.
  • Approaching at faster than minimum control speed.
  • Not being able to get close enough to make contact with the PIW.
  • Angling the final turn so the approach is not into the wind. This will result in the bow being blown off as the boat slows to a stop.


  • Safe Powerboating Handling On-Water Skill Standards 6.1, 6.2 and their rubrics
  • Start Powerboating Right! textbook pp. 137, 138
  • Safety & Rescue Boat Handling On-Water Skill Standard 3.3 and its rubrics
  • Safety, Rescue & Support Boat Handling textbook pp. 29, 35, 36, 37