Arrow in  Arm

Life Jackets Good, Boots Bad. A lesson in Life

(24 Jul 2018)

Club founder Alistair Rumball received this story from a friend of his, an experienced yachtsman, and wants to share it with club members.


Life Jackets Good, Boots Bad. A lesson in Life

Arriving back in Conwy Quays marina after a sail down the Swellies in the Menai Strait, an overnight stop in Caernarfon and the return trip, in a Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 35, more tired perhaps than I thought, motoring gently along the pontoons, my day had only just begun. I had to reverse into my berth and tie up. I was on my own but that is not unusual. By the way it was dark and that might not be a minor detail. I had to squeeze into quite a narrow space between my starboard -to pontoon which was to windward meaning that my bow was likely to blow off towards the large motor cruiser which was in fairness very well fended.

No bother says me. Take it easy. So I start to slowly ease her in reverse. Going in fairly accurately my starboard quarter is exactly where I want it to be but of course I am moving slowly and inevitably the port bow is moving down to the neighbouring vessel whose fenders are going to assist with a gentle push off from myself. But we’re not at that point yet because suddenly we stop dead. Something is obstructing and it turns out to be my dinghy which, I forgot to mention was tied to my stern. In no time we are in a jam, my port bow leaning on the next door fender and the dinghy wedged between my starboard quarter, having of course drifted on its painter round the corner as I reversed, and the end of the pontoon.

No problem, I can deal with this. But it is dark. A certain amount of background light but not a lot.
I step ashore taking my pre prepared stern spring, it is longer than my breast rope, and make it off to the nearest cleat just aft of my transom. That becomes important in a minute. I step back aboard and on down to my small bathing platform in order to untie the dinghy painter. Why I felt the need to do this from the transom I will never know. Anyway having untied the line I somehow decided to head back on to the the pontoon in order to manoeuvre the dinghy out of the way but in my haste I attempted to step straight from the transom to the pontoon. It didn’t work. Of course I snagged myself on the line holding the yacht to the pontoon. One foot just about made it to the pontoon but, now overbalancing because I have tripped on the line, I ended up in the water.

After being underwater for perhaps a split second, which seemed like an eternity, my head popped up and I realised not only that I was wearing my life jacket (I could quite easily not have been) but that it was working, fully inflated, even if I had not been aware of that happening, and I was floating. I tried in vain to haul myself up onto the pontoon. In shoes this is possible. I have done it before. In boots however it is a different matter. No amount of effort was going to prise me up to the pontoon with my sexy Dubarrys full of water. Quickly I turned to plan B which was my bathing platform. It had got me into this mess but would it get me out? Well, it did and quite easily. I was able to grip onto my bathing ladder and haul my self up.

After this palaver, all of my own making, I was able to sort everything out quite quickly. My yacht was resting patiently on my neighbours fender and grumbling not one bit. With a little pushing here and there against the superstructure of the large neighbour I had no trouble manoeuvring my girl into a straighter angle from which I could use my own bow line and offending stern line to park up perfectly neatly. Job done.

Water is ok really. Clothes are the problem. Garments are not nice after total immersion in water and salt water is even worse. It’s all quite messy and very time consuming to sort out.

There are a few lessons here:

  • Try not to forget about the dinghy in the first place. Obvious. Utter stupidity but of course absent mindedness must be the cause of many mishaps. Don’t tow the dinghy in the water if you don’t need it there,pure laziness.
  • Pay particular attention to what might go wrong in the dark. Dark is dangerous.
  • Wear your life jacket at all times when alone on a boat. You never know. Really silly, careless things can happen.
  • Ask yourself whether your boots are really necessary. If you end up in the water they are a dangerous hindrance. If you need them have the ones with ties at the top which will keep most of the water out and the small amount of air in.
  • Do not hurry. Fight the temptation to turn the situation into a race. This is the most important consideration of all.

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