That’s not how you start a boat

Tomorrow is Opening Day of the Seattle boating season. (Which, as I noted some time ago, is purely a social occasion with no legal significance.)

One of my colleagues is not much of a boat person, but his wife is. (In fact, she's a commercial fisherman.) They were on board some fancy boat or other as it sat docked. He was up on the top deck—this being a boat so fancy that it had an upstairs and a downstairs—and as the preparations were made for heading out, his wife called out to him to start the boat, since he's up there already.

Now, as I mentioned, my colleague isn't much of a boat person. But he figured, "These modern boats, how hard can it be? It's probably pushbutton nowadays." So he looked at the control panel and saw a bright red button. "Red button, that's probably the power button, right?"

The button looked like a letter V with a dot in the middle, or at least that's how it was described to me.

Immediately upon pressing the button, alarms rang on board the boat, and the Coast Guard called them on the radio.

It turns out that the V with a dot is not the power button. It is the "man overboard" button. The dot is the person's head, and the letter V represents the two flailing arms.

Comments (9)
  1. Mason Wheeler says:

    Several years ago, I was on an airplane, and I overheard a boating disaster story told by the guy in the seat behind me.  It went like this:

    "OK, you know how the airport out in San Diego is right there on the water and the runway goes right up to the waterfront?  Well, this buddy of mine was out boating out that way a while back.  It was Memorial Day, and he's out enjoying the holiday, but when it was getting along towards evening, he decided to head back but he couldn't get his boat to start.

    "He got on the radio and started radioing to land for help, but it turned out there was a problem with his radio too.  It would send, but he didn't hear anything as a response.  So he figured it wasn't working at all.  Back on land, they heard his distress call, but because of the holiday it took a long time to get a rescue crew together to go out and pick him up.  So after a while, he figured no one was going to come and rescue him.

    "So my friend takes the next logical step: pulls out his flare gun and fires a shot up in the air, but he didn't look around first.  So he fires a flare in the air… directly into the path of a plane on approach.  It bursts right against the windshield, dazzles the pilot, and the pilot panics, pulls up in a big hurry, and radios to the tower saying 'Help, I'm under attack!'

    "Didn't take long at all after this for my buddy to get 'rescued' by a very unamused platoon of Marines."

  2. Chortle chortle chortle says:

    Sounds like your friend was a bit in over his head

  3. DWalker says:

    Somehow the quote "You're going to need a bigger boat" seems to go with the blog title.  

  4. Dave says:

    I cast a spell to summon a bigger boat.

  5. Did he learn how to start the boat?

  6. jas88 says:

    I just want to know what the bag limit is during boat season…

    (I'm reminded of a colleague some years ago who changed a tape on the university's central server, shut the front door which protected the drives, then, from habit having just shut a door, turned the key – remembering a split second too late that the key was not to lock that drive door, but to control the system power supply. In those days, that mistake meant a few hours of filesystem repairs and some awkward questions to answer – though probably not quite as awkward as the ones the Coast Guard and Marine Corps had for the earlier story subjects!)

  7. Boris says:

    But if this was your colleague, then by definition he was either a programmer or close to the sensitive business of software development? If so, wouldn't he consult documentation before pressing buttons on a boat? Or even better, ignore his wife's request?

  8. George says:

    It sounds as if he started a boat all right, just not the one his wife had in mind.

  9. D-Coder says:

    Why hadn't the wife given him a quick runthrough on critical buttons and systems beforehand? Did she point out safety vests? If he's "not much of a boat person," he needs this runthrough before being allowed to touch anything even more… or she needs to not tell him to operate things.

    Poor management, as we see too often…

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