Singlehanders need to clip in

The importance of wearing a harness and staying attached to the boat when singlehanded sailing is borne out by the story of 56-year-old James Nelson. Nelson fell overboard, not from some racing sled 1,000 miles at sea, but from a 23-foot sailboat while sailing in Lake Michigan’s Green Bay. The boat unexpectedly gybed on Nelson with the boom knocking him overboard. According to news reports he was in the water for 12 hours before a Coast Guard helicopter showed up. It was now dark and Nelson, overjoyed at being found raised his hands to wave. This caused him to sink lower in the water and the helicopter turned away. Luckily, it had an infrared night vision device and he was spotted and the aircraft turned back to him. Nelson reportedly said he was almost “out of gas” when the helicopter arrived. Of course, if Nelson had been attached to the boat, he wouldn’t have needed to be rescued.

By Ocean Navigator