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Darwin Awards
1999 Personal Accounts
Email a Friend The Darwin Awards salutes the spirit portrayed in the following personal accounts, submitted by loyal (and sometimes deceased) readers. Next
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Jet Ski Jock 
1999 Personal Account

This week's Rocket Scientist award was a laydown. The story was taken from a US navy safety directive.

It's a quiet day at sea in the waters of Southern California. On a ship forty miles from shore, a petty officer is on deck minding his own business, watching the waves go by, thinking about sex. Suddenly, this sailor hears a mysterious disembodied, voice calling to him.

"Whiiiiich waaaaay to Caaataaalinaaaaa?"

Startled, the sailor looks around for the source of this eerie wail, expecting to see a frustrated navigator. Instead he spies a Jet Ski racing alongside the ship. On it sits a citizen, steering with his knees, hands cupped around his mouth yelling for directions to Catalina.

Well, someone as dumb as this is a real rarity and it just fascinates the sailor, who wants to share his humorous good fortune with his pals. So he begins yelling at his buddies, calling them over to the deck, and pointing at this weird guy out there in the middle of the ocean on a jet ski.

The guy on the water scooter is watching the sailor gesticulating wildly on the flight deck, and surmises that sailor has understood his request for a vector to Catalina. He assumes he is answering the question by pointing in the direction he should steer. So he takes off full-throttle for Catalina. Only problem is, that ain't where the sailor was pointing. The sailor was pointing at the dummy on the Jet Ski who, if he continued on his newly selected course, would be far more likely to make landfall in Pearl Harbor than he would in Avalon Bay.

It didn't take long for word of these goings-on to filter up to the bridge. As soon as the Captain heard about it, he turned the ship around, gave chase, dropped the tail gate and encouraged this wayward adventurer to putt-putt into the well deck.

Once aboard, ScooterMan informs his rescuers that he's not alone. He has a buddy out there somewhere who was DIW (dead in the water to you land lubbers) the last time he saw him, bobbing up and down in the ocean on a personal watercraft which, like his own, was fully equipped with a key slot and a gas gauge as the full extent of the navigation equipment.

It took all night, but they finally found this guy's running mate right after sunrise. When asked how he was feeling, he's reported to have said, "I'm one happy dude." No, dude, you're one lucky puppy, that's what you are; and you and your pal are proof positive that somebody needs to drop a couple more chlorine tablets into the gene pool.

Skepticism from Rick Grossman, BMSMS:
This sounds like another urban legend. A single ship would not search for someone on a jetski. Random searching is ineffective, and also, the Coast Guard is available and will perform a faster and more efficient search with multiple vessels and helicoptors.

A rejoinder from Capt Lee Cracknell, USMC:
"I am a helicopter pilot in the Marine Corps, and I want to confirm this story. At the time I was deployed with the 11th MEU onboard the USS Peleliu, and I was part of the rescue effort launched to search for these knuckleheads. I now wear a Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Commendation on my chest from that very search.

"This jet skiier and twenty of his buddies launched from Newport Beach, California, towards Catalina Island on a fun trip. Three of them strayed from the group to check out some splashes, and were separated from the group. Two ran out of gas, and a third sped up to our boat and got the attention of some personnel on the flight deck.

"We flooded our welldeck and allowed him to ride his jetski into the back of the boat, and the rest is pretty much as written in the story. The only incorrect fact is that you say there was only one more jetskiier. In fact there were two. Both spent the night hopping up and down on their jetskis to keep from getting hypothermic. One of our helicopters rescued one, and the Coast Guard rescued the other man.

"Rick Grossman expresses doubts about a Naval vessel stopping all operations to search for one person. Well, tell him that not only the Peleliu was launched to search for him, but also the USS Constellation, an aircraft carrier. We ended up flying over 20 helicopters and three jets to find these two men, and that translates to millions of dollars in taxpayers funds. But we found these guys and they are alive because we did not selfishly ignore their plight. I hope Rick changes his mind."

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Submitted by: Chuck

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