Overboard: Stories from off the boat

Published on October 21st, 2019

Falling overboard can occur unexpectedly and end tragically. Staying onboard is always a priority, but even the most experienced can find themselves off the boat. Ken Redler shares a tale that may or may not implicate the Scuttlebutt editor:

Many years ago, my wife and I and two other couples chartered a sailboat to explore the British Virgin Islands. Although cruising in the Caribbean was new to some of us, we had all spent our entire lives around boats. We were very accomplished sailors with our names on big trophies in yacht club lobbies scattered around the nation.

We had just left Tortola for our first anchorage amid calm conditions, motoring along with the mainsail up and dinghy in tow. The mood on board was giddy with excitement, having just started the adventure, all looking forward to the Pain Killers and Bushwhackers that lie ahead.

About halfway to our anchorage, the mood was shaken as the lid to an ice chest fell overboard. While not life-threatening, it was putting our beverages at risk, so we jumped to practice our overboard drill. We were quickly back at the lid, never losing sight of it, with one of our crew members, who will remain nameless to protect the guilty, retrieving our victim off the stern of the boat.

Assisting the operation was a line attached to the stern pulpit which appeared to have no particularly function but proved helpful to lean against while reaching out for the lid. The mission was a success due to our collective skill, the urgency given to the task, and in no small part to the line on the stern pulpit.

But when our retriever took a closer look at the line, he saw how it was barely tied onto the pulpit. When he brought this to our attention, demonstrating its questionable connection by leaning against it, the knot gave up and into the water he went. Now we had a more urgent man overboard to attend to.

As we had just practiced a man overboard drill and the conditions were still very benign, we were easily able to get him back on board, though our efforts were greatly hampered by our laughter. I guess the lesson from this story is not for the crew member that falls overboard, but instead for the rest of the crew who remain on the boat.

Even very accomplished sailors can do unexpected things that can result in a man overboard. So remain vigilant at all times, no matter how experienced your fellow crew members are. 😉
Scuttlebutt wants to feature your overboard experience. Send to editor@sailingscuttlebutt.com.

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