Witnessing a dockside snafu at Bimini’s Big Game Club provides us with a sobering reminder: How you react to a stressful situation is something people will remember forever.
My colleagues and I were nursing the first sips of painfully watery coffee from the second-floor bar of Bimini’s Big Game Club (note to self: don’t expect much from a breakfast where sugary frozen drinks were spilled hours earlier). We were literally comparing notes and planning for our return trip to the States when we stopped to admire a beautiful Grand Banks 42 gently moonwalking out of its slip.
The boat was so striking we admired it dockside just the day before. The boat backed out easily enough. It was all going well, until it wasn’t. A 2-knot bow thruster fought in vain against the 4-knot current. Before the captain could course-correct, the current had him slipping sideways towards other boats, including the new Beneteau Swift Trawler we had arrived on.
Before we had any chance to react, the boat struck the bow of the Beneteau and then a multi-million dollar sportfisherman. I can still hear that sickening crunch of fiberglass.
My stomach turned into a knotted pretzel as the captain and his wife screamed at one another. To make matters a couple magnitudes worse, the beautiful Grand Banks was now stuck, pinned against the other boats with no means of escape. Justin Joyner, who was heading up our mission to Bimini and was essentially responsible for the new Swift Trawler, looked on with us.
It would be Joyner who would have to explain to the new owner how his boat got damaged while on a press trip and photo shoot in the Bahamas. I wouldn’t have blamed him for dropping a few F-bombs himself before reading the offending captain the riot act.
On the contrary, Joyner, an avid boater in his own right, suggested that we continue to struggle through our coffees while he went alone to assess the situation. He knew that a cadre of spectators from three marine publications would not do much to alleviate the captain’s embarrassment.
“I’ll go down. He’s just having a bad day,” he said.
Joyner seemed to talk the mortified owner off the ledge—at least a little—as he shifted the Beneteau further back into its slip and away from the pinned Grand Banks. The sportfisherman ended up being unscathed. Our new Swift Trawler suffered only a damaged anchor. The GB did have a damaged hull, but it was mostly a superficial injury that could be repaired at most boatyards. The captain’s ego, however, would likely take much longer to mend.
A small crowd had gathered at the breakfast bar at this point. Conversation turned to how the situation could have been avoided. Monday-morning quarterbacking at its very best. The conversation wasn’t malicious or even judgmental but more of a postmortem on how we could avoid a similar fate.
At one point, I looked up from my breakfast and saw Joyner on the flybridge of the Grand Banks as it finally found its way into the open channel. From where I was sitting, it appeared Joyner was offering boat-handling advice—or maybe just acting as a buffer between the captain and his wife. There was no bravado, no hamming it up for the marine journalists nearby; it was all done inconspicuously.
There’s something you don’t see everyday: a guy whose boat had just been hit helping the guy who hit him get back on course, I thought to myself.
I thought a lot about that situation in the ensuing weeks. Whenever I did, I said a silent prayer to the sea gods to not find myself in a similar situation. That collision reminded me to respect the wind and the tide and to use those forces as allies, not enemies. But the bigger takeaway was that if you go boating long enough, accidents will happen. One day you might be the cause and one day you might be the victim. It might be tough to accept in the moment, but as long as no one is hurt, a boat can be fixed—and your ego will heal. But how you react and carry yourself in a stressful situation is something people remember forever.