Custom Search
   boat plans
   gift certificates
Join Duckworks
Get free newsletter
on this site
by Eric Dahlkamp - Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA

Well I experienced a first never to be repeated I hope - the main sheet was full out, the traveler fully over and the main reefed with jib fully furled. The daggerboard was full down. My heading was N. E. under self steer down wind on a broad reach. I had just finished reefing prior to start of buoy race off marina on Bear Lake, Utah. I slipped off the back of the boat as I leaned out over the aka from the cockpit to disentangle line hooked on upper batten end.

I failed to find a way back into boat before I lost my grip and she sailed away on a broad reach headed downwind under perfect control without me aboard. At her speed I calculated her 1/4 inch plywood hull would have crashed ashore on the far side in two hours. That was the ONLY thing on my mind. I had on life vest, lightweight neoprene pants and a thin long sleeve splash guard top. Bear Lake is huge and the wind was picking up - it had reached 12 knots. I was at least 3 miles out. The elevation was nearly 6,000 feet and the water was cold with the chop building. I would have lasted an hour tops and there was next to no chance of rescue due to minimal boat traffic out that far.


My two-three mile swim back to Committee Boat would have been iffy and directly into wind and chop. That's when The Lord stepped in and sent the one and only power boat in that part of the lake directly my way. He still missed seeing me even at 25 yards! Kids on the tube being towed spotted me and saved my life and my boat! Total time in water was perhaps 15-20 minutes. Getting aboard and chasing my boat down took another ten minutes.

Video tells the most of it. After recovering at the marina, I headed out on my post incident redemptive sail a little apprehensively. I felt I needed to do it though. I stayed on same course over and back with just one tack. I didn't shift my butt one inch off the boat unless absolutely necessary. Over and back took almost three hours with perfect wind and temperature. What a beautiful lake to sail. I had on all the wet gear I own. I was rretty fatigued the next day and somewhat beat up. Bruises and sprains to forearms and several fingers. Guess 65 ain't 35!

Lessons learned:

  1. Assess the situation better - as if my life depended on it! Try much, much harder to get back into the boat the first time before water drag has tired me out. Still can't believe how blasé I was at the time,
  2. Reef main ashore if possible;
  3. Sail with a buddy if at all possible in breezy conditions;
  4. Apply non-skid to decks and cockpit floor;
  5. After shoving off convert dock lines to rescue lines with foot loops tied into them and strategically store them for easy access from water;
  6. Don't clamber about the boat like I'm a kid.

Here's a video I made after the incident:

This video hows the boat in 15-20 mph gusts with intermittent lulls - typical summer sailing on Utah mountain lakes. What I wouldn't give for the trades and a distant watery horizon!


Crosswins - Cross 18 Trimaran

To comment on Duckworks articles, please visit one of the following:

our Yahoo forum our Facebook page