Overboard: Stories from off the boat
Published on July 29th, 2020
Falling overboard can occur unexpectedly and end tragically. Staying onboard is always a priority, and while advanced racers may know the risks to avoid, newer sailors being introduced to the sport may not. Kenneth Haring explains…
I’m not really sure why I am telling this tale about my falling overboard, but empowered by having seen other stories in Scuttlebutt of people falling overboard, it was many years ago when I learned some very good lessons.
At the time I was relatively new to sailboat racing, having crewed for just a few months for a friend of a neighbor who, according to her, “always needed crew.” Harry owned a Cal 25, and his yacht club was having a regatta in which we had a one design class of about 8 or 10 boats.
It was Memorial Day weekend, the weather was great with early sun and mild winds. The course was a twice around triangle (remember those?), and while retrieving the spinnaker at the first leeward mark rounding, the halyard became disconnected from the spinnaker and floated free.
I reached for it and fell overboard, and now over 40 years later, I still have two distinct memories about that experience. The first was how grateful I was to be holding on to the stanchion as I reached for the halyard, so I never separated from the boat. The second was how nice the cold water felt on my knees which lacked sunscreen and were burning.
After climbing back onboard I was instructed how a halyard free flying to leeward would come back inboard when the boat was on the other tack. Lesson learned.
It wasn’t until the second offwind leg that I discovered another reason to stay on board the boat, which was when I noticed a large object in the water swimming across the bow. It was a 13 foot long shark, over half the size of the boat and an important reminder how there are critters in the ocean that might be hungry.
Scuttlebutt wants to feature your overboard experience. Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.