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The Day I Almost Lost My Boat but Bob Marley Was Right

It was several years ago and it was late fall in Georgia.  The water in Lake Lanier had cooled quite a bit but It was a nice day so I decided to take “The Bear’s Den” out for a cruise one weekday afternoon.  The water might have been too cold for a swim but the air was warm and the winds were light.  After a good day on the water, I decided that it was time to head back to the marina.

The original "Bear's Den" safely in her slip.
As I entered the no wake zone, I noticed a sailboat in front of me that looked to be about 24 to 26 feet in length.  There was a lady on the boat by herself and, like me she appeared to be heading for her slip.  I did notice something unusual though.  She still had the mainsail up.  I decided to watch her intently thinking that I was about to get a lesson in handling a sailboat.  I figured that if she could put that thing in the slip under sail, then she must be good, definitely better than I was!

Her boat was about 50 yards ahead of me and the wind picked up a little as she approached the dock.  I crept along at about 700 rpm and watched as she pushed on the tiller to bring her boat to port alongside the dock.  The small sailboat came to rest alongside the floating dock with a bump and I watched as I saw the lady lose her footing and fall into the water between the dock and the boat.  At first, I was frozen with disbelief because I was not sure what I had just seen but after a second or two, I sprang into action.

I pushed the throttle on my boat up to about 1000 rpm and I rushed toward the dock where I had seen the lady fall in.  As I approached, I scanned the water for any sign of her but there was none. I could see the sail boat bumping up against the dock because of the wind and the waves and I imagined her being beaten up as she tried to get out of the water.  I knew that time was of the essence. 

As I pulled alongside the dock, I grabbed a line and tied it to the rear cleat on the port side of my boat.  I jumped onto the dock and quickly tied the other end of the line to the dock cleat with a cleat hitch.  Obviously, I did not have time to do a complete tie up to the dock.  I figured that having one line attached would keep my boat from floating away. 

I ran over to the sailboat and frantically searched the surface of the water for a sign of the woman but saw nothing.  I called out but there was no response.  In reality, this was probably only 15 or 20 seconds but it felt like forever!  Then, the sound of dripping water brought my attention to the stern of the sailboat and to my relief, I saw the woman climbing up the swim ladder onto the deck.  I breathed a BIG sigh of relief.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Everything but my ego is.” replied the lady.  “My engine went out so I was trying to bring her back to the dock under sail.”

I spent another minute or two talking with her until I was comfortable that she was fine.  I said goodbye and walked down the dock toward where I had left my boat dangling by a single line. . . . or at so I thought.  As I turned to face my boat, I could see that it was no longer tied to the dock.  This was in no doubt due to my frantic attempts to tie a super quick cleat hitch when I first arrived on the scene.  My boat was already a good 50 yards from the dock and the wind was swiftly carrying it even further away.  The engine was still running and the radio was still playing Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”.  I could hear the words “Don’t worry, bout a thing.  Every little thing’s gonna be alright.”  I remember thinking that to be ironic as I stood on the dock and watching my boat float away.  A few random thoughts went through my head: 

“I wonder if the water is really that cold.” 

“How do I explain this to the insurance company?”

A properly tied cleat hitch does not come loose by accident.

A minute or two went by and the wind shifted.  I watched as my boat changed direction and saw that it was now slowly drifting towards a dock on the other end of the marina.  I took off running down the dock toward the shore, along the shore and up the other dock.  I waited in anticipation as my boat slowly approached.  When it got to what I felt was the closest it was going to get, I took a running leap.  I landed with a thud on the deck, my momentum carrying me down the steps into the cabin.  I jumped up, rushed to the helm, sat down and let out a big sigh of relief. 

“Well, I’ll be damned,” I thought.  Bob Marley was right.  “Everything is going to be okay.”

Happy Boating

Captain Frank
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  1. There's an old saying, "slow is smooth, smooth is fast." It has its origins in the military. Moving fast, or rushing it, is reckless and will likely get you killed. If you move slowly, carefully and deliberate however, you are really moving as fast as you can without needlessly increasing the risk on your life. I think that's the lesson you're teaching here.

    1. I agree and that is a good thing to keep in mind.

  2. Well, dang, Capn! Glad it worked out well!

    1. You're not the only one that is glad it worked out! LOL

  3. No good deed goes unpunished...

  4. Ok good story but damn the thud of you landing on the boat must have sent a ripple though the force


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