We had just finished a photo shoot on the water near Guemes Island for the new SeaSport Commander 2800. The boat looked great running by at 30+ knots. My fingers were still stiff from the cold encountered while shooting from the flybridge in the January air. We brought both boats back to the Cap Sante Marina to set up the interior shots. I crossed the dock with all of my gear to board the new SeaSport when disaster struck, and I unexpectedly went swimming―with everything.
My $7,000 Saltwater Swim
I stepped onto the swim step of the new boat from the dock to go through the transom door. Turns out the factory boat builder had not put on the non-slip surface that morning due to being out ill. I stepped down onto the swim step area and was holding onto the boat with one hand. In a microsecond, my foot went out from under me. I fell on my back (my head missed hitting the dock) and went into the water with my backpack and camera bag.The rest of the crew just heard a splash.
I tried to hold the camera bag over my head and handed it up to the guys on the dock. It still got wet. My clothes were heavy and cold though I could tread water and pull myself out. Luckily, the new SeaSport had a telescoping ladder installed under the swim step (standard for SeaSports), and I quickly climbed out. There were three guys there to help too. In hindsight, I might have been in shock from the fall onto the swim step.
What Did I Learn?
- From now on, all of my gear gets handed or passed into a boat and not carried on my body where backpacks and bags can throw off balance.
- Did I need ALL of my gear in my backpack with me?
- I am now always scanning the dock for the emergency ladders to see their location.
- I have been putting off adding an emergency ladder to the swim step on my boat. I single hand a lot and probably could not get myself out of the water. I WILL add the ladder this spring.
$7,000 of Saltwater Damage
The backpack had my laptop, iPad, and a small Nikon camera in addition to notes, etc. The iPhone in my pocket―toasted!
I got out of the water and started quickly taking gear out of the backpack. It was soaked and soon the laptop started smoking. I crossed the dock back to my boat and changed out of the cold, wet clothes to a spare set to finish the interview and photos with the one remaining camera that worked (It started corroding later.)
Next the reset. All of my electronics were shot. I needed a phone for business communication ASAP. My phone insurance would take a few days to replace my iPhone. Without a phone, I could not start the recovery process. That night I went to the AT&T store and got a temporary smartphone for $40, but it did not have my phone numbers in the SIM card, and I couldn’t retrieve the numbers off my phone book software on my damaged iPad and laptop. That was a problem. I did not have any of my phone numbers and could only call the few I have memorized, which is not many.
I called my insurance company, and they said our company policy would cover up to $50,000 for my damaged gear. In two days, the adjuster contacted me, and I started the process of replacing things. In today’s day and age being without a computer is a real problem. I could get to my Gmail account through my data plan on my temporary smartphone and could start working. Once the adjuster gave me the OK I purchased a new laptop and iPad. The iPhone arrived five days after the incident, and the iCloud backup worked beautifully once the SIM card was activated. The new MacBook laptop arrived a few days later, and this crucial part of my business existence as a writer and a publisher has been a struggle to get all of the settings restored. The whole process had lots of convoluted steps and has not been easy. Having documents and images in the cloud has been invaluable, and as a result of this experience, I will depend more on the cloud for storage going forward.
I will be changing a number of things like covering my safety equipment and how I use my various computers and electronic devices. This old salty dog is going to be smarter and safer going forward. It happened so quickly…
We tell it like it like it is at the Waggoner Cruising Guide―even when disaster strikes. Managing Editor Sam Landsman and I ended up in the water in the last six months in what could have had a very different outcome. We were both doing simple things around boats and the water. Sam was underway in his inflatable dinghy when he looked down at the mapping on his iPhone, and his outboard went all the way to one side flipping him out of the boat and into the water. The story of his incident changed how I operate my dinghy. Now I always wear my red engine cutoff strap. Many of our readers have also changed as a result of Sam’s story.