Accidents happen: One experienced boater explains why diligence is necessary at all times when out on the water

May 13, 2022
By Guest Columnist

By Tim Spain

Having spent years on the water, local chef Tim Spain has a tale that bears telling, to let our readers know that even with years of experience, one bad move on the water can end badly. 

On April 4, 2022, I was on a boat that had just been renovated, and we took it for a sea trial. It performed exactly as the captain hoped, and we went down to the pass and looked for fish and enjoyed the afternoon.  

We left the pass and went down to Useppa and back. On the way back it was a beautiful ride, and the sunset was awesome. 

When we returned to the dock, we began to prepare to dock this boat that I had helped dock many times before, but there’s always that day when things may go wrong, and they did. While backing the boat up to the dock, I was on the bow where I am to grab the bow line and cleat it off on the bow.  I should have had a gaff in my hand, but I didn’t. There was a young man on the bow with me, so I thought at least one of us should be able to grab it in time. However, I didn’t realize the wind was blowing out of the south, and it pushed the bow away from the dock; again, I should have had the gaff in my hand. We both reached for the bow line and missed, so I reached again. lost my balance and fell about 8 feet headfirst into the water and smacked the top of my head, then my leg, on the way down before falling into the water between the dock and the 40,000-pound boat that we were docking. 

Luckily, it didn’t knock me unconscious. As soon as I hit the water, I realized, “OK, dummy, you need to get away from that prop wash.” I ducked under the dock and tried to grab hold of the piling I was next to, but it was covered in barnacles that were cutting my hands. I then swam farther away, finding refuge at the stern of the boat on the other side of the dock. I was able to hang on to the stern and the bait tanks that were behind me. My friends were yelling for me, but I couldn’t hear them; I was yelling for them to dock the boat, but they couldn’t hear me. 

When I heard the engines shut off, I swam up and popped my head up above the stern and someone yelled, “There’s Tim.” I looked over at the person and motioned for them to come to me. When they and several others got to me, I looked at them and said, “I don’t care if you break my arm, get me out of this water right now.” They yanked me out of the water onto the dock, and I guess I might have been in shock, because I began to walk to my truck. One of them asked where I was going, I told them I was going to go home, because the only thing that was hurt was my pride. My friend asked if I was sure, because I’d hit my head hard on the dock. I said I’d be all right and felt okay, but that wasn’t the case. I wasn’t okay. By the time I got to the house, my head hurt like heck and my leg was turning purple. I saw a doctor the next morning. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is, be careful.  Remember Murphy’s Law: – If it can go wrong, someday it will. Slow down and plan while on a boat. As the old proverb states, one hand for you and one hand for the boat. 

(“One hand for you, one hand for the boat (ship) is an old proverb that means, do not neglect your own safety, security, or well-being for the sake of your work or your employers; also used literally as a safety maxim for those working at sea.)