4 come to mind. If I'm allowed 4.
1. Just rounded the corner of Sarah Point and like the main gates of a palace, we're in Desolation Sound! Yay our destination of a months long cruise! I'm showing my GF at the time how to navigate and she think's were waaaay over here on the chart. Which we aren't. I tell her that our depth doesn't corrolate with being mid channel when suddenly the sounder Beeps indicating a change of depth range. Then beep, beep. Beep beep bepebbebepebepbeep We are going from 400ft to 2 digit depth faster than it can beep. I look over the side, and the water is a different color. We're doing 7kts under motor and she asks "What do i do?" "Turn the *&!!#ing wheel!" was my response. Dived on the throttle and put it in full reverse while doing a "Crazy Ivan" turn. When we stopped the depth sounder read 12ft. We were right next to "steamboat rock" seconds from hitting it at 7kts in a wooden boat with a poorly hung fin keel. Would have been swimming.
Lesson learned? Chart books, while very handy, can change scale MASSIVELY from page to page. We went from a page where we were moving a 8inches an hour, to moving 2inches an hour. As I glanced around and "eyeball plotted" or location, I hadn't taken into account the scale change.
2: Cruising the inside passage on my friend's 1.7million dollar mega-yacht. (yeah, a good friend to have
) We were appropriately respecful of "Dent Rapids" an area of tidal flow that can get 100ft whirlpools and 10+kts of current. Made it through Dent okay, and went north instead of south of little dent island (we usually went the other way) to keep our obnoxious wake from swamping everyone else. Since we were in the clear, we powered up to 17kts. I looked over at the depth sounder and saw FOUR feet.
His boat drew FOUR feet. Sounder is mounted 2ft below the water. That would have been a fat check to write....
Lesson learned? As you're preparing for something big, like a rapids or narrows transit, or any other anxiety producing piece of pilotage, rememer to look, in advance, at what's after the area of interest and not totally fixate just on the narrow spot. We spend so much time studying the chart of the rapids themselves and didn't look at the water just after it.
3: Sunny summer day in the San Juan Islands. Got to be back for work tomorrow. NOAA says gale warning in the Straits of Juan de Fuca. Damn weathermen are always wrong (experience from my land life) and look it's totally calm out here. Tried to sail, sails were limp. Stupid weathermen. Enter the phrase "the calm before the storm." It's real. Very quickly I'm in it. Didn't have a wind meter but I was registering 25deg of heel on one bare pole and a flat bottomed (stiff) boat. Waves very high, and very short. My wooden boat is slamming down in the troughs so hard that from my cockpit vantage point I can see the whole thing flexing like an accordion through the companion way hatch. Dinghy flipped over and became a sea anchor, so I couldn't make way. Somehow righted the dinghy with the boat hook. Gale was SE and there are cliffs to the east. Looked at the chart and hugged the land in the lee of the cliffs within 100ft of shore (wasn't a lee shore). From that shelter I could hug the coast to a sheltered bay. Someone from land assumed we were foundering and called the coasties, who showed up in a helo that did several low circles above me until I thanked them by radio but told them we were fine. We wern't fine, we were actively sinking, but I didn't know that. We had exposed a design flaw in the boat and cracked a plank in that storm and it turns out the bilge pumps were what was keeping us afloat....
Lessons learned? Don't sail on a schedule. Believe the NOAA weather forecasts. Have a way (light or alarm) to notify you in the cockpit when your bilge pumps are on (I couldn't hear them, or the water they were expelling over the din of the storm). Most important lesson: Fiberglass is good.....
4. Just past the breakwater at my home marina. I am 6months into the boating life and greener than I thought I was. Took 2 friends out (who know nothing about boats.) One of my fenders had come untied and come adrift. I steered the boat up to it, told my friend to hold the wheel and went forward and tried to retrieve it with the boat hook. I leaned over the side, standing tall over the lifelines, with both hands on the boat hook. At that moment we hit a wake, the boat lurched and I lurched forward and crashed into the lifelines. It was a miracle that I stayed aboard as I was standing at the lifelines, but they were above knee height and somehow they kept me from tumbling over. I realized that I hadn't even shown my friend where the throttle lever was, let alone anything else. I would have swum to to the breakwater okay but the thought of my petrified friend at the wheel of my boat, in close quarters of a marina, at full throttle scares the crap out of me. That couldn't have ended well.
Lessons learned? When moving about the boat be aware of your weight and center of gravity. Stay low, and you ever hear about that "one hand for the boat" rule? It's a really good rule.