Monday, August 6, 2018

Going Overboard

Leaving your coffee cup here? Risky business.
When we did our Great Loop trip eight years ago, we lost a number of items overboard before we trained ourselves not to place anything on the stern seats.

For example, there was the time we steered Dragonfly in tight circles for an hour to rescue an insulated coffee mug.

Then there was the time Cap got out his fishing rod to skillfully retrieve a rug.

We Jinxed Ourselves

Lake Champlain is very deep--here, 132 feet right near shore.
If something goes overboard, you're not getting it back.
A couple days ago we were congratulating ourselves on how few items have gone in the drink this trip.

Let's see, we lost a walkie-talkie, carelessly set on the roof of the boat as we pumped out at Phoenix; and we also lost a new brake pad for Bill's bike. 

(Cap's note to self: Conduct bike repairs on dry land, not the stern deck)

Being smug about our lack of mishaps --bad mistake.

A Visit to a Museum. What Could be Safer?

This morning we left the charming Westport Marina and headed east to the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum.

We were taking a chance on actually being able to visit.  The Museum doesn't have an official visitor's dock.

Our Motto: Show Up and Look Cute

We weren't sure if we would be permitted to touch on the dock where historic boats are on display, including a reconstruction of the gunboat Philadelphia, built for the first American navy during the Revolutionary War. (More pix from that part of our trip here.)
Peter is a museum docent who portrays a Revolutionary Ware-era boatbuilder.  In real life he pilots his own electric boat!

But we approached with a hopeful spirit.  This museum celebrates (among many nautical themes) the canal boat trade that once flourished on Lake Champlain. Maybe they would welcome an actual canal boat joining the flotilla for a few hours. ("We're just part of the tour!")

They did! (Thank you LCMM!) We had a fantastic time touring all around, including a tour of the reconstructed gunboat by Peter, a docent in period costume.

When we finally got back to the dock, water conditions had gotten a little bouncy. We were nervous about getting off the dock because of our close proximity to a fragile-looking antique rowing boat.

Should Have Remembered THIS Motto: Mistakes Happen When You're in a Hurry

To make a long story short, one of our fenders got wedged on a dock protrusion.  The crew, trying to fend off with a boat hook, pushed too hard and . . .  splash! Woman overboard! Right into the drink!

I was in water not much over my head and right next to the dock.  A helpful visitor helped me scramble out, and then I jumped right back over to Dragonfly. So, no real harm done, just a dunking on a warm day. We pulled away and . . .

My glasses!  They went in the drink too!

Cap to the Rescue

Rather than risk the finicky maneuvers to land safely at the dock again, we motored to a convenient mooring ball about 50 yards away.  Cap got into his bathing suit, grabbed a scuba mask, and swam over to look for my recently purchased pricey progressives.

He dived and dived, to no avail.  Meanwhile, the day was rapidly going from sunny and pleasant to black and thunderous.  A few minutes after Cap made it back to the boat, the skies opened.

(We Heard This Later: Storm Accompanied by Tornado)

Rain slashed down  Thunder rolled. Lightning crackled.  (See the video here.) And the water in the little bay heaved with three-foot rollers. Dragonfly swung on the mooring ball like a compass needle over a magnetic anomaly.

After about an hour the rain lightened and a patch of blue appeared overhead.  When we went out on deck, we discovered that our pot of herbs, forgotten on the boat roof, had also gone overboard.

The Debrief

That evening over dinner, we did what we always do after any kind of near-dangerous event on the boat: we debriefed. What led to the accident? What could we have done differently? What should we remember for next time?

"Don't rush" is a big one.  We should have taken a few moments to confirm our strategy for getting off the dock. Cap started going forward, then decided to reverse out instead. That's when the boat swung against the dock and the fender got caught.

"Don't risk life and limb to protect property" is another. I was worried about Dragonfly damaging the dock more than I was considering my own safety.

Unlucky, But Lucky Too

Curiously, though, this accident probably helped keep us safe.  If I hadn't fallen in, and lost my glasses, we wouldn't have tied up to a mooring ball.  We would have headed on our way.

The forecast that morning was for only a slight chance of rain. The day was clear until a few minutes before the skies opened.  We later learned that two different tornadoes passed through, not far from where we were.

We would have been out in the open lake when the winds whipped up, in water too deep to set an anchor.

But . . . High Five! We didn't sink the boat today.


  1. Too bad about your glasses but was happy to see that you were unhurt. I am happy to have helped pull you out.

    safe travels.


    1. Jon, thank you SO much for your help! And great to have a chance to meet and talk about our points of connection.