Saturday, July 11, 2020

It's all fun and games until the boat rolls over!

Some stories are better heard than told...
Thanks to friend and fellow FBC member Keith P. for sharing this story. We can either learn from history or repeat it. 

Here is a Savannah Boater challenge. The next time you are on your boat with passengers, do a drill. 

With everyone on board and the life vests in their normal storage location, see how long it takes for every person on board to don a vest and prepare for going in the water. Ready, Set, GO! You are going to be surprised, and better prepared.

While stationed at NAS Kingsville, two buddies and I decided to rent a boat from the base motor pool to fish in Baffin Bay. We got more than we bargained for...

The bay is about 3 miles wide at it’s widest and around 10 miles long. None of us had any formal training in operating a boat in open water. We all just assumed it was not much different than a large lake. The boat was 18 feet long and well designed. Like any other boat, it possessed strengths and limitations.
I can't recall the horsepower, but it also had a small trolling motor on it that we used my car
battery to power.

We arrived early in the morning and launched the boat into the bay. We motored around
to various areas near the shore for several hours, with none of us was really paying attention to the
boat's position because we were all 3 drinking and fishing. Eventually, we noticed that we were
roughly ¾ - mile from any shoreline. We decided that we should head back after seeing a storm building off to our east and realizing we could probably not outrun it.

In those days, we didn’t have GPS or apps to warn us of predicted winds and tide. As one would
expect, the seas started getting rough and water was entering the boat from the rain and waves.
Ironically, we were all in the Navy but not one of us knew exactly how to navigate the waves and
they were growing more intense. At the time we were running parallel to the waves – big
mistake.

We were quickly swamped by the waves and the boat capsized in an amazingly short
period of time.

One person in our party did not know how to swim, so we secured him to the boat with a
piece of anchor line. None of us had life jackets on and I couldn’t swear that there were any on board to begin with. We lost everything – my car battery, wallets, tackle and gear, and the trolling motor.

We clung to the capsized boat for what seemed an eternity and were all stung at least once by jellyfish. It was miserable and terrifying because the waves were still very choppy and the wind was not helping anything.

Fortunately, the storms there are similar to the storms here, it came in ferocious but
didn’t last too long. After an hour or so we saw another boat and got help. We
towed our capsized boat slowly to shore and had to leave it on a rocky beach because the ramp
was quite the distance around the bay.

We retrieved that boat once a wife brought us some keys for the truck. We attached a winch and pulled the boat up that embankment along the beach. Needless to say, the boat was badly damaged.

I cannot stress strongly enough that a person should not attempt using a watercraft
without some sort of formal training. I also cannot stress enough to inspecting the boat ahead of
time to ensure there are lifejackets onboard, and that they are readily accessible if not being
worn.

Also, one should always check forecasts and ensure someone knows where you are going.
A person should be cognizant of their surroundings at all times and tides as well as
understanding the limits of the equipment which you are operating. I tell this story to people
today in a joking manner, but I can assure it was terrifying at the time. All of us survived but the
story could have ended very differently. We were very lucky and I would advise others to get
educated on safe-boating practices and not just rely on luck.


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