Beware the Under Toad

Nice blog post on the vicissitudes of going to sea — even if its only a half-mile offshore — by Portland, Maine, attorney Nico Walsh from his sailing blog On the Wind.
“The death of a doctor in our area a few days ago got me thinking. He was a very experienced boater, about sixty years old. He sailed his 23 foot sloop to the yard for hauling, a five mile trip. He had towed a twelve foot skiff with a 4 horse outboard, and when he’d delivered the sloop he set off for home in the skiff. The weather was good and winds moderate, but he became overdue and first the overturned skiff and then his body were discovered. His life jacket was on.

“As in most casualties the second guessing comes easy. Should’ve had a handheld VHF. Should’ve had a survival suit. Shouldn’t have gone.

“Maybe he fell out of the boat and couldn’t catch it. Maybe he had engine trouble and the boat swamped over the transom while he fiddled with the motor. Or maybe the Under Toad got him.

“Remember John Irving’s Under Toad, from The World According to Garp? Garp’s boy Walt is warned summer after summer to ‘watch out for the undertow’ while swimming. He hears ‘Under Toad’ and for years ‘Walt had been dreading a giant toad, lurking offshore, waiting to suck him under and drag him out to sea. The terrible Under Toad.’ The Under Toad becomes his parents’ metaphor for unknowable and terrible danger, rarely apprehended but never far off.

“Seems to me the more water under your keel the more you understand that the Under Toad is out there. You can’t anticipate every contingency and you can’t prevent every mistake, no matter how good and how smart and how careful you are. One day something lets go and you’re in the water or you’re tired and run onto a bar or ledge or maybe lightening strikes and then the Under Toad has you.

“My wife says after decades of my always coming home she has confidence that I always will. She may worry a little, and then she hears my car in the driveway. But I know, better than she perhaps, that the Under Toad lurks.” 

By Ocean Navigator