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Date: 7 March 2022. Soapbox:  Ladder Edition.


For decades I have been a huge advocate of being able to safely board my boat from the water without assistance. Too many boaters have a momentary lapse and end up in the drink. This could happen to you. People have lost their lives. Today I will share a Bob tale.

This involved our dear friend Bob. You met Cap'n Winter in the
Time Stopped article.

The event took place in the St. Marys River at the border of FLORIDA and GEORGIA



The fact is, when Bob was stepping from his dinghy onto his boat something went wrong. He was at anchor and long away from other vessels. This was in the winter time at the Florida/Georgia border. Though our waters do not freeze, a strong current and cold water is a bad combination.


Bob's red inflatable dinghy.

Bob's home, S/V Maverick.


As you can see from the previous picture, Maverick has a low *freeboard. This should theoretically have made it easier for Bob to pull himself back onto the sailboat. Unfortunately, he was not quite as fit as he had been decades before.

*Freeboard: The distance between the surface of the water and the deck of the boat. The larger the distance, the more difficult it would be to get yourself back aboard.

Although my freeboard is not particularly high, getting back aboard Seaweed from the
water would be difficult even with the swim platform. Thus, I have a platform mounted ladder.

The ending of the Bob tale is not terrible however... you see, I heard some lunatic hollering "hello" in the anchorage. I wondered who the idiot was that was making a racket. Finally I looked out and spotted a second white ball at the bow of Maverick. That was Bob's head!

Immediately I got on the VHF radio and stated Bob was in the water next to Maverick. I received a response from Lynn on In
Ainneoin who advised that she would get the Coast Guard to help.


After alerting Lynn to the problem, I hopped into Algae and started motoring toward Bob to deliver a life jacket. I knew I could not get him out of the water, but a life jacket would be a stop-gap until the real help arrived. For the record, yes Bob did keep a life jacket in his red inflatable. He was unable to reach it from the water. By this time Bob was most likely too tired and chilled to do much more than stay near his boat.

One of the other anchorage folks, Doc on Safira, also heard the VHF call. His Morgan pilothouse sailboat was closer to Maverick than Seaweed, and his dinghy had a faster outboard. When I saw Doc heading for Bob I returned home. Knowing Bob, I thought he would prefer to not have an audience...

In the meantime, Lynn was on the VHF calling the
nearby Coast Guard station in ↓ JACKSONVILLE, FL.

Though the Coast Guard station was replying, Lynn spotted a go-fast Coast Guard escort vessel launching right in front of her boat. She waved over to that boat, then sent the crew barreling down the river to rescue Bob. Yeah, Lynn!!!

One of the young men aboard the Coast Guard boat hoisted Bob up onto Maverick. After assuring themselves all was well, the Coasties departed on their mission. First though, they saved a life. Thanks does not begin to cover our gratitude. It was a quick and efficient resolution to a scary event.



What went wrong and right during the fiasco...


The Good:

The Bad:

I heard someone shouting "hello"

Bob was actually calling "help", and relying on a partially deaf boater across an anchorage is a Bad Idea.

There was a community of anchorage folks ready to offer assistance That there were three of us with VHF radios turned on is almost a miracle.
The Coast Guard had a boat right there, in less than 5 minutes. It could conceivably have taken much longer for assistance to arrive.
Bob had a perfectly good boarding ladder. Bob stowed said ladder in a locker as he had not yet departed for the Bahamas.

We subsequently did an informal survey of boaters anchored on the river. Of the dozen vessels scattered about, only two of us had boarding ladders accessible from the water. Lynn had one, and I had the other. The men were of the opinion that they could "climb the anchor chain" or "pull themselves aboard"  -- which quite frankly is dubious.

Lynn's boat, In Ainneoin, is the blue hulled steel beauty at #4.


Bob did learn the Ladder Lesson: He had a special bag made for his ladder by Katja. From then on, Cap'n Bob's ladder was hung from a lifeline. It was secure, AND accessible from the water.

This is Katja, a Valiant 32:

You probably have noticed that often I refer to fellow boaters by the name of their vessel. It is easier to denote the specific yachtsman involved. After all, there are a lot of men named Bob on sailboats. This is a common way at least among old timers to refer to another boat and the people aboard her.

S/V Maverick is a great name for both the boat and the individual who called her home.

Bob was never able to recall exactly how he ended up in the water. It was one of those blink-of-an-eye 
moments of inattention that resulted in a lesson for the entire harbor. Fortunately all was well in the end.

Mistakes were made. The smartest thing Cap'n Bob did was stay with his vessel. The water was cold and the current swift. Letting go and swimming for shore probably would have put him into the marsh far from help. There, hypothermia could have been deadly. Remaining with the boat provided Bob the best chance of survival.

The anchorage in the St. Marys River is particularly popular at the end of November. It has good holding although depths run 25' or more. The current is swift so timing trips to shore by the tides is the norm.


This time the result was a safe rescue. Others have not been so fortunate. I told you about my daughter's friend in the Matt's Loss (sad news) vignette. There are many others. Too many.

Matt's son Nathan was lost at sea→

Be safe out here. ALWAYS, always have a way to board your vessel from the water without any assistance. I have a swim platform. Attached to my platform is a ladder that folds down into the water. Someday I will have a tuna door too. That will enable me to easily step rather than climb into the cockpit.

As one grows older it is imperative that the boat suit the owner. For me, Seaweed is ideal. Over the years I have added many items to make her safer for me as I age. One of those is the ladder I bought from S/V Concorde. I am still grateful for it.

Take care, be safe, and thank you for reading.

Do you have an easy way to get out of the water should the unexpected occur?
And, do you have a missing friend who presumably did not make it back on board?

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