Whether sailing across open water or sitting at a dock, one thing you need to get used to in boating is that if you drop something, or don’t fasten something down securely , once it hits the “ground” it is likely you will never see it again. Decks have lots of slopes, docks have lots of cracks and gaps and once it hits the the water, it is generally too deep and too cold to get it back.
So you take extra care with winch handles and always put your binoculars in a safe place. I put tethers on things like my crescent wrench (reminiscent of my theatre days) and multitool and try to use a cloth to put small things down on so they won’t roll away. Stuff on deck is tied down or clipped to rails or bungied to some part of the boat. But inevitably something is forgotten, a clip isn’t strong enough or a bungie not secure and over she goes. It’s usually not one of the most important things so you get careless. My most common error to date is forgetting that I put something down and then when I pick up whatever container I put it in, it rolls out and then I have that oh-so-lovely, slow-motion, self-recriminatory moment where you call yourself several kinds of idiot as the one bolt you mustn’t lose hits the surface of the water and then glitters like a precious jewel as it slowly sinks to the bottom. Notice I said common…you’d think I’d learn.
And your pockets also become suspect. The number of times I check my pockets in any given hour has increased tenfold. You spend a lot of time bending, crouching and squatting and things just have a way of working themselves out. Followed by the inevitable splash. This reminds you once again that things are different on the water and you just have to increase your situational awareness. I have a friend who lost several iPhones not so much to carelessness as to momentarily forgetting… I am especially paranoid about my electronics.
There is also the stuff that just disappears. It was there one moment and the next time you glance out, you can’t quite put you finger on just what is different — until it occurs to you that something that was “secured” no longer is. In fact it’s no longer there. You read stories of missing dinghies occasionally… but anything not tied down is susceptible to the wind and the heel and occasional wave coming over the bow. So securing things becomes a bit of a mania. I believe the reason sailors are so into knots isn’t just to pick up girls, but because they get tired of things disappearing. Because once that knot goes, it is unlikely that you are getting that expensive whatever-it-was back.
Sometimes you get lucky. I read a story the other day where the harness on an outboard gave way and the young man in the dinghy was able to grab the handle before it disappeared completely. Didn’t save the motor from a thorough soaking but at least it wasn’t lying on the bottom.
I imagine in the tropics where people regularly dive to check their anchor, rescuing things is more plausible, but here in the PNW it has to be a pretty expensive item to make me want to jump in and search.
So here’s a fun list: a few of the almost important things that I have dropped overboard and been unable to rescue — all from one short season of boating…
- The bolt that fastened the BBQ to the stern rail (Thanks to R Shack Island for a spare.)
- A solar shower (crossing the Strait of Georgia)
- Her bath towel (no idea where it went)
- A $85 pair of linesman pliers (not mine unfortunately)
- The head of my electric beard trimmer (still have the trimmer though)
- The restraining nut for the dingy’s oarlock (luckily we were on the dock so it was only a small inconvenience)
- A bright yellow pair of briefs (in case you find them)
We’ve lost a bunch more stuff overboard — hats being the big ones — but always managed to rescue them. And thank god buckets float for a few minutes before they sink. Talking to others dockside, I can believe I have gotten off pretty easy. Leave a comment if you want, and tell us what you’ve lost overboard…