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Darwin Awards
2001 Personal Accounts
Email a Friend The Darwin Awards salutes the spirit portrayed in the following personal accounts, submitted by loyal (and sometimes reluctant) readers. Next Prev Random

 
 
XYZ
2001 Personal Account

Every other year, sailors board sailboats in San Francisco, and spend 11-12 days racing to Hawaii, pushing hard day and night. Crewmembers never sleep more than three hours at a stretch. Sooner or later, the crew need to bathe. Unfortunately, racing sailboats save weight by carrying the minimum required amount of fresh water, and few have pressurized hot water. So the bathing routine consists of stripping down on deck, throwing a bucket over the side to scoop up some seawater, and scrubbing up.

A persistent marine layer of clouds typically occludes the sun for the first three days out of San Francisco. Even if the sun appears a few days out, the air temperature is still in the low 60's and the water temperature is even lower. These conditions are not terribly inviting to bathers. So sometime around Day 7, one finally breaks down (or the rest of the crew insists) and decides to bathe.

Given that the bather plans to soap up, and things will be slippery, the standard procedure is to don a harness attached to the boat with a tether. And since the boat is generally moving fast enough to rip a bucket right out of your hand -- and the next stop to pick up a new bucket is a week in the future -- it's also important to tether the bucket.

In a recent Pacific Cup race, a crewmember allegedly put on his harness, and while he didn't tether himself to the boat, he very carefully tied the bucket to his harness before throwing it overboard.

The boat went back to pick him up. Some might argue that this was an error in judgement, but it happens to be required by the rules!

On a related matter...

Every year, a number of people fall off a boat at sea and die. Most of them happen to be men, and reports claim that the majority are found with their fly open. The theory is that they took a leak over the rail before going off watch, ignoring safety precautions like clipping on, and fell or were washed overboard.

Now, this seems puzzling. Suppose you found yourself suddenly washed overboard in the middle of the ocean. Unless you banged into something on the way down, you won't die instantly. If it were you, knowing you'd be swimming for some time before you drowned, wouldn't you take a moment to tuck things back in place and zip up, lest the fishies start nibbling? Or are they trying to survive longer by using their tackle as bait?

These statistics are rumored to come from the Coast Guard, yet they smack of Urban Legend status. Either way, it seems likes there's potentially interesting fodder for the Darwin Awards here.

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