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In the summer of 1982, I dated a beautiful young lifeguard. She lived 16 miles across Long Island Sound in Mamaroneck, New York. Out of nowhere, we parted ways. I left her place (hungry and broke) and headed home to Cold Spring Harbor, New York, in my 13-foot Boston Whaler. I motored out past the last pilings and entered open water. A pesky low-pressure system created east-northeast wind gusts to 27 knots. Seas funneled straight down the Sound. I heard waves breaking over the loud whine of the dinghy motor, which was running for all it was worth. The roar of the original 40 Merc was long gone. (My treasured boat was earning its keep with a little eggbeater.) Conditions worsened. I -quartered serious head seas. A boating classroom course and years of scouting had taught me seamanship and survival skills for life.
With Execution Rocks 5 miles ahead, steep breakers forced me to find refuge leeward of East Island on Long Island. I anchored, swam to shore, and hitchhiked home before dark. Overnight, the wind and surf had shifted to the north. The worn anchor line broke, and the outboard sheared off along the mount. The boat smashed into rocks, flipped over and was virtually destroyed.
Read Next: I Learned About Boating From This: Getting Back in the Boat
Overconfidence, ignorance, the pursuit of pleasure, and subtle incapacitation brought on by stress caused this accident. First, I shouldn’t have gone out. I knew better. Also, I should have been prepared with a VHF radio, foul-weather gear, and an anchor rode in good working order.
I never found the missing outboard motor but recovered the lost anchor, now prominently displayed out back for good luck.
Wanted: Your Stories
Share your boating mistakes and mishaps so that your fellow boaters might learn from your experience. Send us your first-person accounts, including what went wrong, what you’d do differently, your name and your city, to [email protected] and use “ILAB” in the subject line. If your story is selected for publication, we’ll send you a $100 West Marine Gift Card!”