Confession: 4×4 farce results in slippery slipway slip-up

In this month’s Confession, we hear how good intentions were severely dented in this nightmare slipway scenario

While I was launching my small boat on a busy Sunday afternoon at Itchenor in West Sussex recently, I noticed that the poor chap next to me was having trouble recovering his speedboat.

His front-wheel drive car would not pull his boat and trailer out of the water and up the slip. With the tide well out and the surface rather green and slippery, his car was trying, but going nowhere and only managing to dig itself into the thick mud at the water’s edge.

Having successfully launched my boat, and seeing as boating is often about helping others out in need, I offered to use my 4×4 to pull his boat up onto the flat and dry part of the slip.

He gratefully took me up on my offer, so I reversed my car down the slope towards his car and boat and parked at a 45-degree angle with the engine running and automatic gearbox in the park position, or so I thought.

Like two typical enthusiastic novices, we began discussing how we might unhook his boat (without losing it and the trailer into the water) and attach it to my car.

As our conversation went on my wife, who had been standing on the slipway watching me launch our boat into the water, noticed that I had left the car running.

She then decided to lean in through the open car door and turn off the engine, which on the face of it seems like a pretty sensible decision.

As I say, my car had been sat running on the slipway with the handbrake off. I’m sure it was in park but on reflection it may have been in drive, held in a delicate balance between the load of the engine and the angle of the slip.

Either way, with the engine off, it started slowly rolling backwards towards my new boating friend’s car and boat.

Panic ensued, with my wife trying to get into the moving car to apply the handbrake and me thinking frantically of how I could stop my heavy car not only crushing the smaller car, but also continuing on into the boat and then into the water.

While I’m no expert, I do know that cars don’t float well.

Although this all happened in a relatively short period of time, I had some very costly nightmare scenarios flash through my mind.

Luckily, my wife did manage to clamber into the car and successfully apply the handbrake, although not before my car crunched rather loudly into the rear wing of the other car.

On the plus side, though, my car did come to a stop before reaching the water. How is it that an embarrassing accident, such as this, makes more noise than several hundred people, cars and boats on a busy Sunday afternoon?

It was all quite embarrassing, but the most important thing about the whole situation was that no one was hurt and only my pride and a rear car wing were dented.

Clearly, my wife blamed me for not applying the handbrake and I blamed her for interfering and turning off the engine. However, I think I’m on ‘slippery’ ground so I won’t raise the issue again.

Eventually, I successfully pulled the man’s boat up onto the flat, and after exchanging contact details we all went our separate ways.

We had a lovely afternoon cruising round to the Witterings that day and have since settled what turned out to be a fortunately small repair bill.

My good intentions thankfully didn’t turn into a very expensive disaster, and I can now look back
and say it’s all in a day’s boating – I guess.

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:


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