My children were probably 6, 8, and 10 at the time. We were moving our small sailboat boat from San Diego to Oceanside and were loading for the trip. The ten year old boy was stepping on with an armful of bedding, his Gameboy precariously perched on top of the pile. The Gameboy slid off when he was stepping up onto the boat from the dock and it fell into the water. Oh the horror! He reacted as if a limb had been severed, falling to the dock and wailing.
His eight year old brother wisely and immediately pushed his Gameboy further down into his back jean pocket. Unfortunately, during the continued provisioning, it worked its way back up and it too went into the water. Now we had a true family disaster to deal with.
Though I knew the electronics were likely irreparable, I dove in and retrieved the two games. We washed them with fresh water immediately and left them in fresh water until we later opened them and cleaned them. There is no happy ending, they were not resuscitated. We did learn some things about the inner workings of electronics, but it was a very small consolation to the two damaged youth.
I once dropped a cell phone in the water the day I bought it and paid extra to have the contacts transferred, remember those days?
So what’s the best way to not experience this type of disaster? Prevention! Conscious forethought. Don’t put the “treasure” on top of the pile of clothes or in an otherwise precarious location. Note to self: use your wisdom to help your less experienced children and guests make smart choices. Ask yourself, do I really need to answer that call now? Can it wait until I am on shore or on the boat? We all drop our phones, usually they survive, but their survival chances are decreased on a dock. This is most relevant to live aboards and marine professionals who are often walking the docks.
If you do drop something at the dock, it is almost certainly retrievable. At the moment it enters the water, make a mental note of its physical location, i.e. five feet past the dock cleat. In many southern California harbors the bottom is mud and most objects drop straight down, sink slightly, but remain visible. If you are not a diver, there is often a diver in the marina, cleaning a boat, who is happy to make a couple extra bucks retrieving your treasure. The depth is often only 10 – 12 feet and easily reachable, don a mask (and perhaps a wet suit) and go get it. Contrary to popular belief, most people don’t get sick from swimming in the harbor.
If you are at anchor or adrift the recovery is much more challenging. If you are underway the odds are slim. If you have a weighted marker (float and weight connected with a line) ready to go, toss it. Noting a GPS location is not usually enough to recover an object without a lot of grid work searching and/or luck, but it is better than nothing. A floating marker buoy can also be used to mark an anchor and rode that won’t come up, so you can return and retrieve it later.
A final short safety reminder, in an emergency at sea, choose your VHF versus the cell phone as the mobile phone emergency operator will route your call to the Coast Guard anyway and you can save a few valuable moments by communicating directly with the first responder.