Spotting a person who has fallen off a boat is a difficult thing. If waves and weather conspire against you, it can be damned near impossible. Sailing with 2 children aboard, we have higher probability of facing a crew overboard (COB) situation than most of the other sailors we know.
We hope that teaching the kids good safety practices will prevent us having a COB, but things happen, so preparedness and safety are very important.
In order to be as safe as possible, SWMBO and I have both taken Canadian Yachting Association (CYA) accredited course, and either one of us could, if needed, perform a crew overboard manouever in order to recover lost crew. BUT you can't rescue a COB if you can't see them. Thats where the COB pole comes in.
A COB pole is quickly deployed buoy that is thrown overboard the moment you notice a crew member has fallen in. The buoy has 2 purposes. First, the COB is to swim to the buoy, which has an internationally recognized symbol for crew overboard flying at the top of it. Any passing boat *should* recognize that the person is in distress, and stop to recover them.
The second feature of the COB Pole is that it stands about 6 feet high in the water, and is of bright colours. In heavy seas, even if it drifts, the COB pole should be much more visible than trying to spot a bobbing head down at water level.
Mounting the pole on the pushpit was easier than I expected. It just took 2 hose clamps to put a holster in the railing, and the thing is ready to go. Now it is perched on the transom at the ready.
Of course Rule 1 is still that no one is allowed to fall in.