HotRIBS - The online RIB Magazine
[ article ]
  # 003
Lift for Life
by Alan Thurwell

Several possibilities exist for the helicopter to winch down onto the boat. Here we outline the Standard Procedure.

Standard Procedure

Normally the helicopter will winch from a stationary boat. The pilot indicates that he intends to carry out winching from the stationary position by a helicopter crewman signalling this intention by drawing his hand across his throat, meaning stop engines.

All directions should be taken from the helicopter winchman. Often the Rib is requested to be starboard side to wind (except in very heavy seas), as this position is safest for the winchman as the A-frame on the rib is well clear.

If requested to deploy a sea anchor in very heavy seas, this will help prevent being blown out of position.

A weighted line (Hi-Line) may be passed by the helicopter to the RIB to assist in passing a strop, to help reduce any swinging motion of the winch cable and reduce the amount of time the helicopter remains directly overhead. Do not handle the Hi-Line until and unless instructed to do so.

On high static days touching the Hi-Line or the winchman before they have contacted the sea or RIB may result in a severe electric shock.

Under no account should the Hi-Line be attached to any part of the RIB.

Radio Communications

It is important to realise that you should not rely on cellular (mobile) phones as an effective means of any seaborne rescue. Helicopter pilots don't use them!

All necessary communications using VHF should be conducted away from the helicopter. This has the added advantage of the pilot being able to observe the boat visually. Directly overhead communication is virtually impossible due to the noise.


Getting it right first time requires preparation. Drill your crews and carry the right equipment. You never know when you may need a Lift for Life.

Alan Thurlwell, CallSign - ILB719