So I'm going to share a little story with you of something I did wrong while out sailing last Thursday that could have very likely caused my death. Here in Virginia we have had a rough winter, and a few days have been favorable. I decided to go out on a lovely day and anchor
overnight and head
back the next day, no rush cool calm and collective. The weather
was a high of mid 60's both days, and the wind
I headed out solo and stated my northern trek up the Chesapeake bay
heading from Hampton to Poquoson where I would anchor
. I had jacklines
set up and had just purchased an inflatable offshore PFD
with built in harness, as I was not going to go solo without a harness, no matter what the weather
was like. I arrived at the channel at around 4:00pm an dropped the sails
, turned on the motor
and began to travel down the channel, towards the anchorage. A large barge was heading up the channel, so I steered clear out of the channel and all of a sudden came to a stop. I had gotten my propeller
wrapped up in a fishing
net that was not properly marked, and quite long.
Now here comes the part where I was stupid. I have unlimited towing with Boat US. Rather than calling them, I tried to use a boat hook to lift
the net up and cut it, however I only got one side cut free. I then decided to inflate my dinghy
and try to cut it away that way and examine the propeller
to see if I could somehow untangle it. I brought the dinghy
around and tied it up to the stern cleats
. I climbed down and tried to cut the net free.
What I did Wrong:
I decided to be lazy with tying the dinghy up to the stern, it was loose, and the sailboat was bouncing on the waves. As I was climbing onto the ladder to get back into the sailboat to call the tow boat (which I should have done all along), the dinghy drifted, I slipped and fell into the water
. The water
had to have been 45-50 degrees, if not colder. I immediately activated my inflatable PFD
and had luckly hooked my harness into the boat incase I had fallen in (This is what I did right). The sad part was that the boat was bouncing on the waves with considerable force.
I was in the cold water for 30-45 minutes before I was able to pull myself up on the ladder, which took all my remaining strength. I could not get into the dinghy which I tried do to the PFD getting in my way, and I wasn't taking that off. One of the major problems was I couldn't feel my feet or my hands, and on the ladder this was a major problem. I then stripped down naked, dried off and wrapped up into 2 sleeping bags to warm up. Gradually I did, called towboat US and was cut free and towed to docking
What I'm glad I did:
Before getting into the dinghy I had called my cousin and told him of the situation. I have faith that he would have hopefully called the coast guard, but by then it would have been too late.
I'm glad I had worn my inflatable PFD and harness.
What I wish I had:
I wish I would have had a portable VHF radio
clipped to my harness, I would have called the coast guard and hopefully would have been rescued without being in the water for that long.
I know what I did was wrong. After taking so many solo sailing precautions by using jacklines
and a harness, I was lazy in tying up the dingy. I also should have never done this alone. I should have called towboat US, especially since I have unlimited towing. I'm lucky to be alive. I did have a mild case of hypothermia, but luckily my army training kicked in, an I was able to treat myself appropriately.