It was a mistake. There was no reason to open up the throttle that way and at the same time I didn’t expect the wind to be that strong. But there it was, as I was turning the little rib as to go back, I mismanaged the throttle, the turn was too sharp, the balance was lost: as in other situations, I was able to understand what was going to happen, but I couldn’t do nothing to change the course of things, as it was too quick: I could only hold myself and watch the opposite border of the boat getting higher and higher, over my horizon: then I was in the water. The small 4 HP outboard quickly stuttered off.
Luckily, turning the small rib and emptying it from the water was done quicker and easier than what I expected. But my thinking was somewhere else: I didn’t expect the engine to start again after that unwanted splash in the water. And I didn’t having anything else to keep myself moving. Either it would start again or I would have been left at the mercy of the wind, which was pushing me away from the shore, and of the waves, which were still small: with the strong wind it was only a question of time before the protection of island behind me would cease and conditions of the sea worsen.
The engine wouldn’t start. I wasn’t surprised, it was a confirmation of what I had already anticipated. Still I had to try again. In my head I was anxiously looking for other solutions, but I couldn’t find any, beside keeping trying. I knew I still had the chance of calling help per mobile phone, as I wasn’t that far from the island yet. Still I wouldn’t know what to say in order for someone find me. Every other second I was looking at the coast getting more and more distant, loosing details. Better concentrate on the engine, try again. But still the thoughts would run to my destiny: in front of me just different shades of light blue, either it was the sky or the sea. The infinite sky, the not so infinite, but still infinite sea…. no symbols of freedom or peace, this time!
And then this voice, damn, did it scare me. I was so concentrated on my engine, on desperately pulling that starting cord, that I didn’t see the white boat and the greek fisherman. He shouted something at me. I couldn’t understand, but a few words and gestures were enough for him to understand that I was in serious trouble.
He didn’t say anything else. He just took the rope I was passing to him, fixed it on his boat and… I woke up!
Unbelievably sweated, shocked and relieved at the same time, with a lot of thoughts in my head, I realised how many maritime or better said, safety rules I didn’t respect in my dream. Oh, and by the way, if I know those safety rules (which are mostly common sense, actually) it is because once it happened to me to be alone in a small rib boat, going out for a quick engine test without any kind of backup (paddles?). The engine stopped. Differently from tonight’s dream, that time, I was in small bay, therefore the situation wasn’t dangerous, as I could easily reach the coast by swimming. Still, as the dream shows, it sure did leave an important track in my memories!
While still half asleep I analysed my actions in the dream and I was surprised by how much emotions can impair your ability of thinking clearly and, by how much little precautions can avoid really bad situations. For example: in the dream I didn’t think of the GPS integrated in my mobile phone, I could have used it to ask for help. There was no mention if I had or if I didn’t have a mobile with me and if it survived the capsizing. Still it astonished me how concentrated I was in unsuccessfully trying not to think about the infinite sea in front of me, instead of looking for real solutions!
Therefore here below the common sense, safety rules I broke:
What kind of trip are you going to undertake? If it is long than you should organise accordingly. If you don’t know where you want to go, if you feel like Colombo, than prepare as if you were going for a longer trip.
Stay close to the coast
We are thinking small here! This suggestions are thought for small boats (< 3 meters in length) with small engines. Therefore it is better to stay close to the coast! Of course without exaggerating, as you don’t want to disturb swimmers.
Avoid doing longer passages bringing you afar from the coast just because “going straight” takes less time instead of following the coast line. If you want to go fast choose another way of transportation.
Staying close to the coast also means that you always have mobile phone coverage. Which in day by day life could be seen as negative thing, while if something goes wrong, it makes a huge difference!
Is there enough fuel for the trip?
Should the engine stop, what then? Equip your boat with at least a paddle. Better to have a pair and also test if you find a comfortable position allowing you to efficiently row.
Also having an anchor on board is a good idea.
Bring some drinking water with you. Sea water is salty, didn’t you know?
Mobile phone or VHF, if you know how to use it. Just make sure that they are water proof. For mobile phones I remember we used waterproof pouches made by Aquapac. As per today there are probably much better solutions, still we used those pouches for a very long time. The neck band is also very useful as it allows you to fasten the phone either to you or to the boat. In case of capsizing, in fact, it doesn’t help to have a waterproof phone on the seabed. 🙂 This is also valid for any other object which is useful, as the bailer or the anchor. ALWAYS tighten the anchor to your boat (I have already lost one, that way!).
The advantage of today’s smart phones is the fact that you can use GPS to know your position. Should you be interested in having even more information you may use the application made by Navionics in order to have your position visualised directly on a map.
In other words, before leaving for a trip on the sea, please consider what kind of trip you are going to do and organise yourself accordingly! 🙂
4 thoughts on “I capsized!”
Very useful your article and pleasant to read, Mike
Thank you! 😉
Was it by chance a small orange Polish inflatable with a Mercury?
Ah ah… No, it happened with Zotelot already, I believe it was an Arimar that we had back then! During that holiday Francesca and Thomas were with us on the boat too! 😉