A Ship's Horn to Beat All Ship's Horns
Three Degrees of Separation

How I Broke a Nail


We’ve been fortunate that EW and I have both been able to have at least one day off a week together. That way, I can ferry 60 gallons of water to the boat and he can heft them aboard. I make two runs with six five-gallon containers. It takes me a half hour to unload the six containers into the tanks, using our nifty siphon hose. While I was on deck, our neighbors Tim and Julie  aboard M/V MacGregor II a cabin cruiser, returned from a charter and started to pick up their mooring.

I didn’t see what happened but looked up to realize that they had a problem: they weren’t hooked, Julie had run back to the stern to move the dinghy, and both kept looking over the side for something. That’s never good. I imagined that a line or the boat hook was under the boat, which would mean they couldn’t put her into gear.

I yelled down to EW, “They have a problem with the mooring on MacGregor. I’m going to help.” “Do you want me?” EW asked. “No. I’m good”.

I was rushing, but and thinking about the best way to get there in a hurry, and conscientiously decided to untie Lunah Landah prior to starting the engines. This is against protocol, but I knew she’d start – especially as I planed to start her with the throttle up higher than normal. There’s a good reason for that because if she doesn’t start on the first pull, she can get a bit stubborn and since I was on a “rescue mission” I didn’t have time for stubborn.

P1182234So, I untied the dinghy, securing the painter inside, started her up with power and then somehow did a stupid thing. I tried to loop the safety switch around my wrist at the same time I went to throttle down in order to put her into gear, but the safety cord was evidently around the gear lever. I managed to put her into forward, at nearly full throttle, without getting the safety cord on. Luna Landah  immediately pushed into the mother ship, listed to starboard and dumped me backwards into the water.

This was not a good thing. The dinghy is running, I’m in the water next to her, and I have no way to stop the motor.

My mind moved at lightening speed in many directions at once. None of them helpful.

“Wow. That’s how Lloyd Bridges always got into the water with his tanks on.”

“Hey, my sunglasses are still on.”

“Keep my legs curled up.” That was actually very helpful and instinctual. I came up at the aft starboard side of the boat with my legs curled tight to my body. At no time did any part of my body touch the spinning blades. I grabbed onto the handles and yelled for EW.

He’s a wonderful man. It seemed like he appeared on deck immediately and just as quickly assumed a look of horror. There was his bride, hanging on to the dinghy which was turning in counter-clockwise circles at warp speed. The important parts of the motor head were turned away from me, so I couldn’t reach the safety cord. I tried, until EW told me to work my way to the bow of the boat. P1182242

In those situations, I always do as EW says, and used the handles along the side to move farther away from the motor. That was a good idea. In the meantime, he grabbed a boat hook and planned to hook onto the boat during a revolution, pull it toward La Luna, and jump in. He looked pretty desperate while my mind started singing “Ring around the Rosie.”  I think I was getting dizzy.

“Stephanie’s coming!” EW shouted with relief, as our neighbor from SV Eagle blasted over in her dinghy with the same look of desperate horror on her face.

“I’m fine!” I said

“Stop the motor!” EW said.

“Don’t get hurt!” I said, to Stephanie as she clutched onto our dinghy and leaned across the two tubes to reach our motor. Now, both boats were turning in circles.

Stephanie put ours in neutral, then pulled the safety cord to stop the engine. “Are you OK?”

“Really, I’m fine. I’m not even as scared as you two are.”

“I never want to see that again,” said Stephanie. “Neither do I,” said EW.

EW, snagged our dinghy with the boat hook as Stephanie hovered next to me while I swam to the stern of La Luna. “Do you want to get in my dinghy?” she asks. “No thanks, he’ll put the ladder down for me once he ties up the dinghy. I’m really fine. Can you check on MacGregor, though?  This started because I was going to help them with their mooring.” She tootled over to our neighbors on the starboard side, while EW lowered the ladder.

By the time I got back aboard, Tim and Julie had fixed their own problems and Tim was in the water with snorkel gear diving on their mooring. Stephanie told them about our saga and both called over with their thanks to me for my good intentions and concern for my well-being.

Really, I’m fine. Well, I did break a nail and my arms are tired from the dinghy dance. Luna Landah sure knows how to twirl a girl.

            Here I am after my dinghy dance:




Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

kate @ bbf.

Scary! Glad it was only a nail and that the water's warm! Getting another 3-6" of snow here in Portland and I do NOT want to think about falling out of dinghies in Casco Bay right now.

Barbara Hart

Thanks, Kate. I'm sorry for your winter. Sounds like a bad one. The water felt great.


Sheesh girl! I'm glad everything turned out ok. Just reading about it scared me! At least when I untied from the mother ship prior to starting the motor the only danger I was in was that I would end up in Puerto Rico before someone rescued me!

Glad you're safe and sound!


So so glad you are okay, umm it always your hands, first around cape Hatteras, now usvi ... take care loll dora

The comments to this entry are closed.