Confession: Skipper’s tricks lead to trailer trouble

In this month’s Confession, we hear how one skipper got his comeuppance when he tried to show off his recovery skills

I’ve been into boats my whole life, it’s in my blood. I grew up messing around in boats on the Thames and I always wanted to get my own boat some day.

So when my in-laws moved over to the Isle of Wight I was thrilled. Not long after they moved they bought a 14ft Dijon, and then upgraded to a Bénéteau Antarès but they found they didn’t use the boat much.

They decided to sell the Antarès and very kindly offered to buy me my own boat, which I could keep on their driveway, the only condition being that I was to be responsible for the maintenance.

In August last year I found a 17ft Marlin Bowrider on eBay, not far from my home in the Midlands. I went to see it and was so impressed with its condition that I agreed to purchase it there and then.

We had our first run out as a family on the Solent later that month. The boat was running great and my wife and I made regular trips down to the Isle of Wight so that we could get good use out of the boat.

As winter approached we decided to make one last trip to the island at the end of October for a run out and to get the boat winterised.

We headed down on a Friday evening to be greeted with some pretty nasty weather on Saturday morning. Rather than miss out on one last trip I convinced my father-in-law to don his rain gear and we headed down to Ryde Harbour to launch the boat.

The boat started first time and was running great, so we headed out of the harbour into a 3ft to 4ft chop with plenty of white horses.

After the third wave had come over the bow, drenching us, and before we even got passed the end of Ryde Pier we decided it was a bad idea and turned back – at least the fuel stabiliser had a chance to mix in the fuel tank.

When we got back into the harbour I moored up, switched off the engine and fetched the trailer. I had gotten into the habit of showing off my recovery skills by motoring the boat onto the trailer and stepping off with the bow line onto the hitch without getting so much as my feet wet.

On this occasion, though, something went wrong with the ignition switch and I could not shut the engine down once I was on the trailer. No problem, I thought, I’ll get off the bow and secure the winch line and then go back and sort the problem out.

Unbeknown to me, as I stepped away from the helm I had somehow managed to just nudge the throttle into reverse. I stepped off the bow with the bow line only to see the boat edging away from me.

I tried with all my might to hold onto the line, walking then running down the trailer getting progressively more wet until I lost my balance and… splash.

Once in the water I managed to clamber up over the bow, still reversing, and get the throttle into forward just in time to prevent colliding with the boats moored adjacent to the slipway.

After a deep breath and a sigh of relief I drove the boat back onto the trailer and tried the key again. This time the engine went silent and I recovered the boat as I had planned originally.

It was only at this point that I saw the size of the rubber-necking crowd that had gathered on the harbour wall to watch me thrashing about in the water trying to recover my boat!

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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