How to capsize a sailboat with a woolly bugger

Despite a very hard-earned engineering degree, I can’t quite get the physics to add up
marina at night
Photo: Ansgar Koreng / cc2.0

I had a recurring, crazy girlfriend once, the kind that only comes around when you have better, saner options. The thing about that kind of crazy is that it’s somehow contagious and you do crazy things, too. Like answer the phone. But she also had the beautiful side of the crazy-beautiful curve pretty much pegged, and we all know how that goes.

One spring break she called me out of the blue and flew into town. I thought I would woo her with a romantic getaway to the San Juans. We didn’t make the day. One thing lead to another—I blame it on drinking in the sun, none of those days seem to reside in memory—we hit a brewery, a winery, a bar. By dinner, I was pretty much in my cups, but that last single malt sure looked good and how was I to remember that she didn’t like wine, so I finished the bottle.

By the time we got back to the hotel, it was a full-on war, about what I know not. I remember leaving her there, suitcase in hand, the trunk bouncing open and closed as I turned onto the main road and floored it. I managed to make it around the island to a little marina that I’d scoped out earlier in the day. I had this crazy plan to walk out on the dock and fly fish for sea-runs through the night. That would teach her.

Only after I parked did I notice the little bar, so I sidled in and had myself a pint of Obsidian Stout. I realized I was too drunk to finish it, so in the gloaming I walked out to my car and got my gear. I tied on a favorite black leech pattern on 1x tippet, wandered out to the end of the dock, past a fleet of little racing sailboats and started casting. I had a full sink tip on, which acted like a shooting head, and I was hucking it. I mean throwing-line-into-the-backcast hucking it. Until I wasn’t.

Somehow, I’d managed to hook one of the sailboats near the top of its mast, which was a damn shame because I really liked that fly. Since I had my whole critter box with me, I resigned myself to losing it, faced into the Salish Sea and gave a mighty tug. What happened next, I’m not really sure. Despite my very hard-earned engineering degree, I can’t quite get the physics to add up, but the repercussions I can attest to being true.

I remember popping up in the ocean, my fly rod in my teeth like some kind of fly fishing sniper. Calmly, I reached up and put my rod on the dock. It would’ve been easy to swim to shore and walk out, but my brain was as muddled as mint in a mojito, and I will admit to some confusion. It didn’t seem like it would be too hard to lever myself out of the water and back onto the dock. I got a good bounce going and made several tries. You might be surprised to find that it’s fairly hard to pull yourself up even a mere two feet after you’ve been drinking all day and are sopping wet. After numerous failed attempts, I was getting tired and, in some dark corner of my brain, nervous.

I gave up trying to clamber onto the dock and started swimming to shore when I came upon the sailboat. My thoughts first turned to getting my fly back, before noticing that the boat was completely upside down. It wasn’t until then that I realized, sort of, what had happened.

I had capsized the boat with my mighty tug.

At this point my concerns changed from survival to witnesses—wondering if there were any— which gave me the adrenaline boost I needed to scramble onto the hull and, from there, get on the dock, grab my gear and head back to the car to sleep it off for a bit.

When I finally showed up at the hotel, crazy girlfriend went into shock because, during my failed efforts to lever myself onto the dock, I had lacerated my legs with countless barnacle cuts which were bleeding freely thanks to the salt water. Hours later, I woke up face down on the rug, surrounded by bloody towels—like a scene from a home birth—at which point she promptly informed me that I was clearly not the man for her.

I sure do miss that leech.