Throwback Thursdays

Throwback Thursdays



By Jana Vandelaar
~ Originally Published in the 7/26/16 Edition of The Reporter ~


My hubby looks at boats and he gets fixated. I look at boats and get constipated. It’s not because I don’t like boats. I honestly love to go out and play on them. It’s all fun and games – until they sink.

How do I know this?

We’ve had a few boats sink in the 20+ years we’ve lived down here. Honestly, I don’t consider anyone a local unless they’ve had a boat sink or at least have helped a friend try to save a sinking boat. It’s like a fraternity hazing. You can’t join or “become one of us” unless you’ve been through the initiation – i.e. frantically bailing water out of a boat while your beer bottle floats over your ankles.

It’s a very elite group who can spend hours trying to top each other’s stories of sinking boats over countless beers and shots. It bonds people. My husband, Jack, and I are considered the fraternity chapter’s presidents because of how many boats we’ve sunk.

I know some of you have never had your boat sink before so you’re probably feeling pretty cocky. You might even be part of another fraternity Jack and I will never be able to join – a fraternity of non-sinking boaters. I do admit I envy you because you have saved thousands of dollars by staying afloat. However, I pity you if your boat ever does sink. Your first time is a bit hard to completely absorb the ramifications of it all. It’s like watching your 10-year old child fumble the ball on the 5-yard line and lose the game.

But, just as you tell your devastated (inner) child, "accidents happen," you know that no matter how careful you are, footballs fumble and boats sink.

As popular as our fraternity is, (again, drinking away our misery together makes for a fun crowd…) I’m sure you’re wondering how to avoid our joining our club.  In other words, what makes boats sink?

The simple answer is water. Logically then, to avoid sinking a boat, all you need to do is avoid water.

Hence the conundrum.

So, how does water get on the inside of boats?

When you run into something in a car, you get a dented fender or a broken taillight. Whereas when you run into something in a boat, it’s exponentially more serious. Especially if you’re out in the middle of the ocean. Hulls can crack and then water takes on a new personality and flips from being serene and gorgeous to a serious adversary in a split second. Sort of like when your perfect girlfriend – who is almost Cameron Diaz’s look-alike – begins throwing knives during PMS.

Bilge pumps are also a big factor and have been the cause of two of our boats sinking. Sure, they help pump water out of the boat, but if they somehow breakdown or run out of batteries, you’re sunk. Literally. On a particularly hard week of rain, the employees at Tow Boat U.S. are busier than a mosquito in a nudist colony. Bilge pumps mysteriously conk out during heavy rainstorms. After a long bout of bad weather, even boats tied up safely NEXT to the dock can be found UNDER the dock with the dead bilge pump blurping out an occasional “I give up” bubble here and there.

Rain isn’t the only way water gets in boats. When water wants access to the inside of a boat, it’s sneakier than a Keys rat finding access to an attic. Gaskets crack, toilet hoses come loose, stuffing boxes come unstuffed. Anything that is below the water line is a possible door for water parties. And once it gets below water line, there are even more holes and cubbies where boats can take in more water.

This is when you are glad you have scuba equipment onboard.

When you notice your dog paddling toward you while he’s inside the boat, it’s time to take action. First, call your insurance company and make sure you’ve paid your bill. Then bail like hell, pray, save the electronics, call everyone, cuss.

Maybe not in that order.

I asked my husband, the pilot and captain of all, if he would go down with his ship. He said, “Hell no. I wouldn’t go down with my plane.” This worries me because boats and planes are his life. If he won’t stick with his babies, then I’m really screwed. Every man (or, in our case, wife) for themselves.

I also asked my husband the first thought that came into his mind when our boats have sunk. He said, “I need to buy a submarine.”

He also pointed out he has learned to always have a “ditch bag” prepared if you’re a boat owner. His has a radio, GPS, emergency beacon, life vest, (I noticed he only said one life vest…) fresh water maker, emergency flares... He doesn’t know I have since added another life vest and a bottle of vodka.

Finally he said he makes sure the boats have a life raft. Being an excellent reporter, I professionally enquired how many people a life raft can hold.  He said, “Well, that’s where it gets complicated. It usually only holds four, so if you have a group of five or more…” His voice trailed off. In other words, do the math.

All I know is, I’m grabbing the ditch bag so I’ll be more valuable.

Obviously, we’re lifelong members of the sinking frat club. So, if you’re a boat dealer in the Keys and you see a tall man with a mustache walk into you store, please be sure to have a bag of prunes on hand for me.

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