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Gavin1 03-14-2002 11:11 AM

Stupid Sailor Tricks!
I am writing an article about stupid / silly things that sailors have done that got them in trouble. Any stories / anecdotes would be appreciated.

Jeff_H 03-14-2002 06:06 PM

Stupid Sailor Tricks!
Silly sailing stuff, huh? Well, after graduating from college, I had purchased a 1949 Folkboat that I named ''Diana'' as a near derelict wreck and had spent ten months restoring her to sailing condition. I had replaced the rig, rudder, and keel bolts. I had sistered the frames, replaced some floor timbers and planking, replaced a piece of the stem and the forward face of the cabin. We had wooded the bottom and repainted her inside and out.

As the year 1973 raced to an end, I was paid up through December 31st, and I had decided that I would get the old girl launched in time for the New Year. As it worked out the yard closed down on Christmas Eve and would not open again until January 2. So it was that ''Diana'' was splashed on Christmas Eve.

''Diana'' was a wooden lapstrake boat and the theory with wooden boats that have been out for a long period of time, is that you must let them swell in the water for a week or so before you sail them. Since much of the strength and stiffness of a wooden boat comes from the friction between the planks, this swelling period allows the planks to swell hard against each other.

I spent the week bailing, finishing the rigging, bailing, and working on fabricating a new cockpit, bailing, and constructing a new interior for the boat. I was sleeping aboard. I slept on a slatted grate that I had made as a temporary cabin sole with my foot hanging into the bilge so that the rising water would wake me and I would know to bail before I drown.

But after a week, it was New Years Eve and I had to get the boat out of the yard. During that week that had gone by, the leaking had pretty well stopped. Although I had to move out of the slipway, I had been given permission to tie up for free between an old piling and a bulkhead, on the edge of the boat yard out of the way of everyone. As long as I had to move the boat, I figured I would go out for a sail first.

This was my first sail on the Folkboat and my first sail as the skipper of my own keel boat and only the second time that I had single-handed a boat this big, and the first time I had single-handed at night. I slipped out just as the sun was setting in a classic sky-on-fire Florida sunset, beating east in a light ghosting breeze beneath a Jack-o-lantern sky. I sailed quietly toward a blood red rising moon over the Cut off of the end of Key Biscayne.

Now a Folkboat is a marvelous little boat that can sail herself for days at a time, just trim, aim and off she goes. I sat up on the cabin top, jib sheet in hand; steering away from the wind by tightening the sheet and heading up with an ease of the sheet. These were simpler times and quieter times and I had Biscayne Bay to myself; no running lights to be seen anywhere. ''Diana'' was free of anything that one might call modern. She did not have an engine and so did not have an electrical system or running lights. Being a few inches less than 25 feet on deck, I simply carried a flashlight, which I was prepared to shine on my sails if another boat appeared in the night. The head was simply a ''bucket and chuck it'' system.

To those of you who have spent much time single-handing after dark, you will probably know what I mean, when I say there is nothing quite like the emotional sensation of being alone at night at sea. There is this profound sense of being more alone than you have ever been in your life. There is a sense of tranquility and a sense of speed that is far beyond that felt in the light of day. There''s a sense of self-reliance and a fear that it is only you there to make the right or wrong decisions. The carpet of stars overhead light the sea and their sheer distance makes you seem infinitesimally small, and humbly insignificant.

I sailed for hours in the chill light breezes but around ten or so, I reached the mouth of the cut to the ocean and turned back for home on a nice broad reach on a building breeze. The trip back into the lights of Dinner Key is lost to memory but when I arrived at the harbor I began to sort through my possibilities. It suddenly had occurred to me that I had never brought a boat this big into a dock alone under sail. I sailed back to the mooring area and practiced a couple approaches to the piling. I decided my best bet was to approach a couple boat lengths to leeward on a beam reach and then head up into the wind. I had decided that there was no way that I could be on the helm and still make it forward in time to place a line over the piling. Somehow it made great sense to me to steer in toward the piling using the jibsheet while sitting on the foredeck. If I missed the piling I would fetch up on sand bar just ahead of the piling. Now youth is an amazing thing, you have not learned enough to know what you don''t and may never know. Youth brings a confidence that can only come when you don''t know the consequences of making a really big mistake.

So in my youthful confidence I came roaring in on a beam reach, sitting on the foredeck, jib sheet in hand. At the moment of truth, I freed the jib sheet and Diana pirouetted gracefully up into the wind. I grabbed the clew of the jib and moving it from side to side steering and slowing the boat- coming to a dead stop right next to the piling. Polite as you may, I threw a bight of my dockline over the piling. I stood there, dockline in hand, congratulating myself on a job well done. And I continues to stand there cold and numb, scanning the docks for some sign of life; some witness to my brilliant feat of seamanship. But is sailing no good deed goes unpunished and nature took its turn to take me down a peg or two, hitting Diana with a big puff from the other side of the jib from where I stood on the narrow foredeck. As I went over the side, I dove for the shrouds, grabbing the upper shroud with my forearm slicing it deeply on the Nicropress but keeping me still a grip of boat.

As I hung over the side, legs in the water, I tired to decide whether to let go or pull myself aboard. Remembering a check in my pocket, I pulled myself aboard. My scream as I went over had roused a crowd, who arrived just as I pulled myself from the water. As I lay there on the foredeck, winded and bleeding, soaked and shivering; the sound of firecrackers bursting in the distant darkness and a chorus of Auld Lang Sine from the drunks in local juke joint wafted out to tell me that I had entered into a New Year a bit more humbled than I''d left the last one.


bmcald 03-15-2002 03:14 AM

Stupid Sailor Tricks!
Great story, Jeff, well told! Have you written any books, or have plans to?

Jeff_H 03-15-2002 04:00 AM

Stupid Sailor Tricks!
I have written short stories and articles. Over the years I have collected many of the stories and longer technical replies that I have written for the internet and have thought about collecting them into a book at some point in the future.


sailortaylor 03-15-2002 05:58 AM

Stupid Sailor Tricks!
Jeff, I have to agree with Bruce...well told! I''m fairly new to sailnet, but look forward to coming to this web site daily. I plan to buy a catamaran by next winter and really have learned alot from the lot of you! Thank you all, there is nothing like the "sailing community". Thanks again for hours of great reading and keeping me out of the bar! ERG...Blue skies and High tides...Taylor

Snap 03-16-2002 05:32 AM

Stupid Sailor Tricks!
Beautifully written Jeff; very enjoyable reading. Thanks for a bright spot in the day.


bporter 03-18-2002 05:49 PM

Stupid Sailor Tricks!
One of my favorites was told to me by a sailing instructor when I was taking the Chapman School''s offshore sailing course. He''d spent some time working in various capacities around the charter business among other things. He was a tremendous source of these sorts of hysterically funny stories, I can only recall a few of them.

One time a call came across the radio from a charter party. Apparently they needed someone to bring them another anchor so they could set the hook for the night. They had "run out" of anchors.

After some dicussion, it came out that it never occurred to the party that the anchors were actually supposed to be retrieved for re-use. Each morning they simply let the anchor go and off they went.

morgansailing 04-17-2002 12:35 PM

Stupid Sailor Tricks!
I''d like to share my stories with you. Visit

There''s also a forum there where other sailors share their stories.

Sounds like a great idea for a book!!

MaryBeth 05-05-2002 03:01 PM

Stupid Sailor Tricks!

This is a very, very true story.

Happened at a charter base in the BVI all the time.

You want to get a good laugh, sit at the dock with the VHF on and hear the bareboat charterers calling in in the late afternoon.


mariasail 05-09-2002 05:03 PM

Stupid Sailor Tricks!
Are you only looking for sailing stories or will a power boat story do?
I was sleeping below decks it was storming and I heard a May day call on the VHF. The captin told the coast guard he was in a 30 ft cigirete with 3 woman and a number of childern. He''s engine had died and and he wanted a tow in. The CG asked him his location. He said Tampa bay. Tampa Bay is a good size body of water, so they wanted to know where in Tampa Bay. He did not know. When he was asked if he had gone under the Sunshine Sky Way, he did not know. After a few minetes of questioning. The CG told him You have your anchour down and are out of the chanel we will come and get you after the storm. His reply "OH yes I should pou down an anchour". A few minets later he was back on the air. More questions and he still had no idea where he was. Then he had an idea. "Why don''t I give you a Loran reading.
I so wanted to get on the air and sugest they go out and get the boat, woman and kids and leave him out there.

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