It was blowing 20 knots with seas four to six feet. Charlie with his group of three sailing students had departed the anchorage and a pretty young student had managed to raise the mains’l to the second reef point when her cap blew off and into the water. Normally Charlie would have abandoned the hat but the girl turned to Charlie with imploring eyes and said, heartrendingly, “That was my favorite hat.”
“Not to worry,” said Charlie, “we’ll have that hat back aboard in a jiffy.” Charlie grabbed the helm, jibed, and slowly came up to windward of the cap. Just then a gust swept over the boat and a pair of sandals disappeared into the water. The girl’s father, a portly 60 year old, took hold of the boat hook, a pitiful short affair, and stepped onto the sugar scoop, ready to retrieve the chapeau. Arm outstretched he missed and dropped the boat hook. Now we had a hat, a pair of sandals and a boat hook in the water.
“I’ll get it from the dinghy,” shouted the exuberant dad and Charlie hesitantly agreed. The boat was bucking in the short, steep waves. Miraculously, dad retrieved the useless boathook and sandals but not the hat. Dad managed to climb aboard and we tied the dinghy to the boat.
“There it is,” shouted Marcia, and sure enough the hat was floating just feet from the dinghy. Dad jumped back into the dinghy clasping the boat hook. Leaning way over with outstretched arm he again missed the elusive headgear.
Frustration set in and to Charlie’s horror the portly gent leaped into the water and grabbed the hat. In moments the self inflicted victim shouted, “I’m in trouble, help!” Waves were washing over him and he was swallowing water.
“Stay calm,” shouted Charlie and threw the helm over for another jibe to approach the victim on the leeward side. The terror in his eyes was palpable. “Quick, drop the swim ladder,” roared Charlie and moments later they were heaving the sodden gent back aboard. There wasn’t one person on that yacht who was not brimful of relief. Charlie had another sentiment, but being a captain imbued with a certain diplomacy retained his thoughts for the next lesson.
Julian Putley is the author of ‘The Drinking Man’s Guide to the BVI’, ‘Sunfun Calypso’, and ‘Sunfun Gospel’