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?
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.
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
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.