In this month’s Confession, we hear how launching a Sealine 218 ended in near-disaster for one fledgling skipper

The day we had anxiously been looking forward to had arrived. My first launch, my first boat, my first taste of the sea. I had bought Tern five months earlier, a well-kept Sealine 218 which sat on my drive awaiting the coming season.

I had sought advice from many skippers and had successfully installed a chartplotter, VHF radio, fixed some electrics and had the engine serviced. I’d also bought a new 15hp outboard as my auxiliary engine, which an engineer fitted to the transom. I was ready to go.

When Tern‘s launch day arrived, I finished work and a neighbour hitched the trailer to his Land Rover and we headed to the slipway at the local caravan site to meet the high tide at 8pm.

On arrival, I got out and proudly looked at my treasured possession only to find the antenna was hanging limply over the boat, broken about 1ft from the end. I’d forgotten to lower it in my excitement and some low-hanging trees en route to the slipway had wreaked havoc.

Nevertheless, the boat was launched successfully, and my wife and neighbour’s son joined me on board to help out.

I waited about 100m from shore for my friend to deal with my trailer and launch his own Sealine 28. We had planned to cruise to my new berth at the marina together.

“Have you got the trailer keys?” he shouted from the shore. Panic! Had I left them at home before we set off after locking the tow bar? I searched everywhere. They were nowhere to be found.

He then shouted to his son to direct me to the marina and his wife would meet me there and we could collect the keys from my house.

All this time I was idling in neutral, so it was time for the big moment. I put it into forward gear and added the throttle. Nothing. The engine stopped. It wouldn’t start.

After five minutes, I decided to put plan B into operation: the new 15hp outboard. It started sweetly and purred away. My friend’s son took the tiller while I went back to the cockpit and the boat gently turned round back to the shore where there was a pontoon we could use.

Then, all of a sudden, I heard my neighbour’s son cry, “The engine’s gone.” I realised it had stopped running. “Gone?” I replied. “Yes, it just flipped off the transom and fell in the water!”

I ran back to the stern to see the 15-year-old boy bravely holding onto the shiny new engine for dear life, helped by a rope I had luckily tied on to a grabrail.

We slowly heaved it back onto the transom and into the cockpit area, but as I looked around I realised we were slowly drifting out to sea with no power.

My neighbour, in the meantime, had managed to get hold of a dinghy and was frantically
rowing towards us. Eventually he caught up with us, boarded and took command.

“Let me have a go” he said. “Yep, battery is OK, all dials are reading correctly – are you sure
the fuel is turned on?”

“Of course,” I replied knowingly. I had watched the engineer service the boat and he said he had turned it off – so I knew that having turned the key the other way it was now on.

“Turn the key anyway,” my friend said. So I obliged. After two turns, the engine kicked into life and we sped towards the marina in the fading light.

After successfully tying up at the pontoon, we walked towards the car. I was feeling embarrassed about the whole experience and I felt bad as my friend wasn’t able to launch his boat as it was now dark. I dug my hands into my jacket pockets and there, as if by magic, were the trailer keys.

The author of every confession we print wins the original Stephen Shaw cartoon artwork (above) and an Icom IC-M23 Buoyant VHF Marine Transceiver handheld VHF radio worth £165.

For your chance to win, spill the beans on your funniest boating moments in 650 words. Email your story to:
philip_reynolds@ipcmedia.com