Two Baffling Choices
Some Incidents Defy Explanation
On a light air day while I was teaching a women’s beginner class how to maneuver and tack an Ideal 18 keel boat in a narrow channel, one of the 16 women suddenly jumped overboard.
Because none of the class was yet comfortable or confident using a tiller, I had created an easy, safe exercise that all the students could handled comfortably or so I imagined. I had tied and secured eight boats end to end in a long line and assigned two inexperienced women sailors to each boat so they could take turns steering. With my motorboat towing the parade of Ideal 18s in and out of the harbor, there was little chance for any boat or shore to collide. But I did not anticipate what happened on the way into the harbor.
Apparently, one woman thought the 18-foot keel boat (which she was in and which was tied to two other boats bow and stern) was going somehow to run up onto the nearby beach. She somehow got it in her head that she needed to protect her boat and save the boat from destruction. She jumped out
To retrieve her in waist high water, I untied the tow line and tied it to a nearby mooring and motored over to the woman who by this time has waded up onto shore. The woman later confessed that she didn't trust the competency of the woman who was steering her boat. Hum! Trust issues!
I suggested next time a better and dryer option would be to stay on board the boat and suggest to the person at the tiller "push the tiller away from the danger". She never returned for another class.
On a bright and 20+ knot blustery fall Sunday, I just happened to be supervising some races on Long Island Sound from a 20-foot Mako when I noticed about a mile or so away one of my intermediate sailors sailing by himself in an Ideal 18.
As he left the protective Southport harbor, it became readily apparent that the wind and waves were way too much for him to keep his boat under control.
When a sudden gust caught him off guard, he wasn't able to release the mainsheet fast enough to flatten out. In his hasty struggle and awkward positioning on the windward rail, he lost his balance and fell overboard while still holding onto the mainsheet. Because his holding on had tightened the sheet further in the cam cleat his boat wanted to take off close-hauled. His boat then picked up speed while dragging him behind.
As soon as I saw him fall, I motored to his assistance as quickly as possible and told him to release the sheet and let the boat go. I then helped him aboard my boat and we then retrieved his vessel.
Why had he decided to sail alone? Why had he pulled in the sail when he needed to let it out? He told me he thought it was such a beautiful day to go for a sail. He had not realized the power of the breeze. He did not realize he was overpowered and how to ease his mainsheet to counterbalance the forces. And he did not realize when to let go of his boat.
There are rational reasons for everything, but some human choices make head-scratching necessary.