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This story is the result of a call out from Brian Guck for such stories so that we may learn from each other.


Tale of an Experienced Sailor


My name is Michael Keyworth and I have a tale to tell you.


I am the Safety Officer for the NBP of the CCA.  I have been sailing and around boats all of my life. As a kid my family lived on a deep-water creek in Annapolis where my brothers and I sailed almost every day, playing tag in small boats instead of on land. After getting married and consulting to schools in Baltimore we were offered a captain and cook job on a boat in the Caribbean. That began a career of sailing professionally which lasted 10 years. My last gig was as Professional Captain of the Maxi Nirvana. I supervised the construction, hired the pro crew and tended to all matters concerning safety in a world which predated GPS. On Nirvana we competed in all of the prestigious regattas and ocean races all over the planet. In all I have logged over 200,000 miles at sea! When my wife, Nancy, announced that it was time to raise a family, I knew that that meant that it was time to come ashore. I was offered a position with the Brewer Yacht Yard Group and spent 30 years as the General Manager of Brewer Cove Haven Marina in Barrington, RI. I continued to sail with my clients and friends. As time came for me to retire, I purchased a Swan 44 which had been owned and modified by Mr. Safety- Commodore Frank Snyder. I have sailed her south and spent the last 4 winters in the Caribbean.  One would think I would know my way around boats by now.


On March 30, 2020 I was involved in an incident that could have taken my life.  I hope you find this short tale instructive.


It was the last day of March this year, the water was still winter cold, and I was working on my Swan 44 Chasseur In a slip at Brewer Cove Haven Marina.  The boat still had its winter shrink wrap on.  I was by myself and had not told anyone in the yard that I was there.


As I was leaving the boat around 1630, having completed my chores for the day, I gathered my gear and prepared to get off onto the dock. I stepped out the shrink wrap door, I put my right foot on a boarding step and my knee promptly gave way.  My left leg was still on deck but was tangled up in the shrink wrap zipper that was inside the door.  I fell backwards with my head in the water between the boat and the dock.  I could not pull myself back up onto the boat. My left foot was at deck level. The water was cold!!


I started yelling for help but there was no-one else on the docks that could hear me.  I kept thinking to myself that I had sailed around the world twice and was now about to drown in calm water next to my own boat safely tied up in a marina that I had operated for 30 years!  What would the Obituary say?  Tomorrow was April fool’s day of course!!!!


I finally realized that I was not going to get out of this situation by myself and remembered that I had my mobile phone, in a waterproof case, in my pocket.  With my last bit of energy, I got the phone out and called the marina office and help was quickly running down the dock.  I must not have been a terrible marina manager as my former work mates saved my life.


What lessons do I think I learned from this humiliating experience?

  1.  When on a boat by yourself be very thoughtful and deliberate in every move you make even if the boat is tied up safely in a marina.
  2. If you are by yourself let someone know where you are and how long you expect to be - file a Float Plan in other words
  3. Always have your phone, in a floating waterproof case, handy where you can get to it quickly and have the appropriate numbers programed into your Favorites folder.

Try not to be too sure of yourself!!!!                       BE SAFE