Joe Boater and the Undergarment


There are two types of sailors: those that recognize their Joe Boater moments; and those that lie. Their’s always something to be learned from Joe. Names have been omitted to protect the innocent AND the guilty.

Oh, Joe, you invited two friends for a day on your sailboat. They invite you to their house. This is your way to give back. It is a beautiful, hot, Saturday afternoon as you make your way to Lake Union in Seattle. The lake is alive with people and the air of great times is all around you. People are jumping from boats, swimming, and lounging on floaties.

One of your guests brought their own floatie with aspirations of getting in the water too. This would be a new experience with the boat, with apprehension about how someone would get back on board. There is a rope ladder attached to a stern cleat, ready to deploy if you fall overboard while alone. However, this is all theory and you have not practiced it yourself. You explain this to your guest and follow up stating “one way, or another,” you know you can get them back on board. You want your guest to have a good time, so you support their enthusiasm to get in the water.

The freeboard of your boat is about 18-24 inches. The theory is the guest will lower themselves over the edge onto the floatie using their upper body strength. First, you tie a line to the floatie and put it into the water. The guest then sits on the cockpit coaming, which also has a winch and cleat on it, and prepares to go overboard. At this point, there are hints that the guest may have more enthusiasm than prowess and that their body type and athleticism may not be a good match for the endeavor at hand. Still, you give cheers of encouragement.

The guest goes over, but…..OH, NO!..…as she slides off the coaming, her panties hook on the cleat! Momentum and weight carry her body to the water, stretching the panties the distance of the freeboard. Your guest, now dangling over the side of the boat. The other guest tries to unsuccessfully unhook the panties from the cleat before exclaiming “I need a pair of scissors!” You give it a go and have the strength to unhook the undergarment, and your guest finishes the trip to the water. Maybe needless to say, the guest did not land on top of the floatie as intended. They grabbed it and everyone took a moment to collect themselves from disbelief.

Before long, holding onto the floatie becomes tiring, and the guest expresses a desire to be sitting on it. They attempt to use the rope ladder to climb up on the floatie, but rope ladders tend to swing under the boat when you climb them, making the ascent more difficult. The guest does not have the upper body strength to get very high. They are unable to get on top of the floatie and their enthusiasm for being in the water has waned.

It is apparent the guest will not be able to use the rope ladder to board the boat. It is now a rescue situation. Grabbing a vest style PFD, you have the guest put it on. This gives them effort-free floatation while supplying a harness for hoisting, and everyone is able to relax a bit. Leaning over the boat, you help adjust the buckles on the vest, to make sure it is a secure and comfortable ride. Next, you take the halyard from the mainsail and loop this through the shoulder straps of the PFD. With a combined effort of the guest climbing the ladder and the halyard on the winch, you hoist the guest back on board. The procedure is not elegant, but it works like a charm, and everyone is back on board having a good laugh.

The takeaways are easy for Joe. Joe should not have allowed the guest to get into the water. He should have recognized a lack of athleticism in the guest and the challenges this would present in reboarding the boat. The ladder was an unproven method of boarding the boat. He should never have suggested it as a means of climbing back aboard without first trying it himself. From another angle, Joe did get an opportunity to rehearse a “man overboard” drill, to test his theory of how to perform a rescue in more dangerous circumstances. He appreciates the guest’s good nature regarding the experience, undignified as it was. The bruises and the pride will mend and the only real loss, a pair of panties.


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