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Old 09-09-2009, 11:28   #1
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A REALLY Stupid Thing Done While Doing a Stupid Thing

This incident happened about 6 or 7 years ago and was stupid, but this morning, for the first time, I realized the REALLY stupid thing I had done.

My wife and I were bringing our Pearson 30 down to Florida from New Jersey. We had just completed a long leg from Ocean City, MD, to Watchapreague and had a lot of trouble cming in. The channel is long and shallow and not really suited to sailboats. We had gone aground twice. Once we got off by ourselves and the second time were pulled off by a passing fisherman. The second time, the rudder was stuck in the mud and, as we were pulled off, the boat turned around the stuck rudder, sweeping the cockpit, breaking the pushrod off my autopilot and breaking the rudderhead fitting. No, we're not at the stupid part yet. When we got into the marina the only space available was tied up to a bulkhead. The tide was running out and our deck was about 8 feet below the dock. After our traumatic entry, we decided to go out to dinner. My wife got dressed up a bit but had problems getting onto the dock. She was sitting on a stringer along the face of the bulkhead and couldn't muster the courage to step off the boat. Well, we all know the classic rule. You can be on the dock or on the boat but not both. The boat moved away from the dock and she went in, fully clothed. It was dark, the tide was running out and the ladder on the bulkhead was about 4 feet out of the water. I couldn't get her ou alone so I threw her a line and said "Hold on!" while I ran for help. The rescue squad arrived (headquarters was across the street and half the members were in the bar), we rigged a sling and got her out of the water. No, we're not at the REALLY stupid part yet. We spent the night in the local motel and, amazingly, my maritime career didn't end that day. She took it like a trooper, we finished the trip to Florida, sailed the P30 over to our winter home in the Bahamas and now have a lovely Islander Freeport 41 that we both love.

This morning I was thinking about how I almost lost her that night. Having to leave her in the water while I went to get help could have gone really wrong. Here's the really stupid part. I had a boarding ladder on the stern of that boat.

Dick Pluta
AEGEA
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Old 09-09-2009, 11:50   #2
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whew, .....scary. I guess we all look back on things we should have known better than to do.... but as we age they seem even scarier.... maybe we learn too much. As young people we would sail around the world without a life raft or gps and row the dingy. When we get older we're trying to fit the washer and dryer aboard...!
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Old 09-09-2009, 14:03   #3
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Everybody handles a crisis differently. My wife freezes, and can't think at all. Heaven forbid I ever need her to rescue me. I am fortunate, because everything seems to slow down. What is even stranger is the clarity of my thinking. If only I could think that clearly in my everyday life!.........i2f
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Old 09-09-2009, 18:36   #4
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I'm with you I2F. When the crisis occurs, things seem to slow down and I think harder. One time our fishing line got tangled in our keel. I just donned my snorkel and fins,heaved too, let the wheel to my son (inexperienced) and jumped in. you guessed it- my son in trying to help straighted out the wheel. I immediately noticed the keel running away from me, finished the line, grabbed the rudder and hand to hand to the swim ladder before it got to fast. To this day I don't know if my son would have been able to turn the boat around or if I would have been left out in the Gulf of Mexico. I will be interested in knowing how much Angels helped with that one.
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Old 09-09-2009, 20:20   #5
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Great tag line!


If the rescue squad wasnt neer you would have remembered the boarding ladder.

Great story and notso stupid, just happens occasionaly


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Old 10-09-2009, 00:50   #6
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Thanks

Thanks all - Being a newcomer it put my stupid mistakes into perspective. I'm way to hard on myself trying to get it 'right' rather than just having fun.
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Old 11-09-2009, 08:55   #7
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BTW, I don't think I made the REALLY stupid part clear. I didn't remember I had a stern ladder until the day before yesterday! Anyway, a Lifesling is now a piece of standard equipment for me.

Dick Pluta
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Old 11-09-2009, 09:33   #8
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We all do stupid things occasionally. You have the courage to admit to them.
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Old 11-09-2009, 09:49   #9
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That was very clear. Now just join the club. No single one of us is as smart as all of us. That's one of my signatures for a reason.........i2f
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Old 11-09-2009, 15:25   #10
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i2f,

The solution then is obvious...make everything a crisis and then you will always think clearly

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Originally Posted by imagine2frolic View Post
Everybody handles a crisis differently. My wife freezes, and can't think at all. Heaven forbid I ever need her to rescue me. I am fortunate, because everything seems to slow down. What is even stranger is the clarity of my thinking. If only I could think that clearly in my everyday life!.........i2f
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Old 11-09-2009, 20:29   #11
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i2f,

The solution then is obvious...make everything a crisis and then you will always think clearly
I've always wondered why everything seems to be a crisis with some people I've known over the years...now it all makes sense.
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Old 11-09-2009, 21:31   #12
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Dick, what you did wasn't stupid, it was a panic reaction. Some folks are panic-prone, others just have their hot buttons.

Supposedly the last words heard on a number of cockpit voice recordings are "Oh ****" muttered by a commercial or military pilot trying to fight the problem quite literally all the way until impact. They're chosen to be people who will not panic.

NASDS (a SCUBA certification organization that no longer exists) used to require students to pass a "panic session" in the pool before they could complete a course. Staff would try to make the students panic (haze them) and surface prematurely, in the logic that if someone can easily be panicked in controlled circumstances--you don't want them to be certified and diving at all, so you flunk them out to ensure everyone's safety. Other organizations said (and say) that you could be liable and create an accident with that kind of hazing, but the fact remains that divers usually die because one has a problem or panics, and the other gets sucked into it.

I guess sailing is one of the few hobbies were "panic" can be fatal, rather than just a bad score for the day.

Stupid would have been waiting for a green traffic light before crossing the street to get the rescue squad. Or hanging around the bar to settle up their tab, before running back to your wife.

Leg on the dock, leg on the boat...Yeah, that's just fatigue doing what it does best.
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Old 11-09-2009, 23:42   #13
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Great story Dick..Thanks for sharing it...you have a storie tellers way about you that is a joy to read.
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Old 12-09-2009, 00:04   #14
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Actually, there was no panic. I very calmly stabilized the situation by tossing her the line and went a very short distance for help. The thing that prompted the post was that I had a pretty good solution at hand and it took me 5 or 6 years to een remember that I had it. The other funny thing was that there were 5 or 6 other people who didn't notice it either. When something is always there it tends to become invisible.

I am reminded of my first crossing of Lake Michigan. It was my first open water passage and I invited a friend who was a member of the local Coast Guard Auxiliary. He was their SAR navigator and I thought he would be a valuable asset. I also made elaborate preparations, checked all the safety gear and had the compass swung. From Holland to Milwaukee is about 85 miles and we made the crossing at night. We sailed all the way and, with the radio and nav lights running and only one battery, by morning we were out of electricity. Sailing in fog, we heard the fog signal and sailed right into Milwaukee harbor. I got out the harbor chart and started to get oriented. Everything was where it should have been, except it didn't look as big as I thought. Just as I began to smell a rat Tom said "Well, Dick, have you ever been to Milwaukee before?". I replied "No". He said, "Well you haven't been there now either. I've been to Milwaukee and this isn't it.". We were in Waukegan. Well, we found a marina, got the engine going and motored up to Milwaukee and had a fun weekend. In the meanwhile, Tom and I both checked the galley, which was right behind the compass, for pots, camera, anything that might have thrown the compass off. Nothing.

On the way back we crossed under power in a dead calm. The wake was as straight as an arrow as we steered our compass course (no GPS back then). No pilot error here. When we got close to the Michigan shore we started to hear radio traffic and that rat started to stink again. I didn't recognize the names of the local boats that I was used to hearing. Tom started to look around the boat and called up from the galley. "Dick? How long has this fire extinguisher been here?". Bingo! In my enthusiasm to be extra safe I mounted a fire extinguisher right next to the companionway, about 10 inches from the compass. It was about 15 inches long, 5 inches in diameter and bright red and neither of us had seen it. It was a fire extinguisher, a good thing. How could it cause a problem? We took it down and watched the compass swing back 10 or 15 degrees. A little arithmetic later at the dock showed it was exactly the variation it took to get us from Milwaukee to Waukegan. That fire extinguisher was just as invisible as my swim ladder.

Someone recently sent me one of those things about how it's a miracle that we are alive. Our mothers smoked and drank and ate cheese. We ate dirt and drank full fat milk and ate ice cream every day. We went out all day to play in parts unknown and showed up late in the day without being kidnapped or murdered. There must be a sailing eauivalent to that. They say there old sailors and bold sailors but no old, bold sailors. Stupid must not be part of bold, otherwise I'd be gone a long time ago. I think Cheechako tagged it.

"I guess we all look back on things we should have known better than to do.... but as we age they seem even scarier.... maybe we learn too much. As young people we would sail around the world without a life raft or gps and row the dingy."

Anyway, it's been over 30 years since that happened and I'm still around. I guess I'm not completely stupid.

Dick
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Old 20-10-2009, 20:59   #15
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I learned an important lesson when I was learning to fly: In an emergency, the first thing you do is wind your watch. It forces you to think.

I once had an airplane engine tell me it needed replacement. It told me that 3 miles south of the airport 2000 feet over downtown Ft. Worth Texas with no good places to land in front of me other than the TCU football field. I paused, didn't panic and wound my watch.

Turned around, glided back to the field and put it down on the runway. Surprisingly, I was calm cool and professional.

In all honestly though, about 2 minutes after getting on the ground, I REALLY NEEDED A CIGARETTE.

And those of you that fly, I also called my first flight instructor and thanked him repeatedly for constantly killing the engine during my flight training.
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