A man overboard manages to wrangle his boat — without getting diced by the propeller
Seconds before the angler gets bucked ; the angler prepares to grab ahold of the gunnel and pull himself back into the boat. Photograph by @willem_powerfish / Instagram
An Australian angler is getting props on social media thanks to a viral video that shows him saving his own unmanned boat in the heavy surf. The sketchy self-rescue serves as a reminder to always use the proper safety equipment (in this case, an engine kill switch or safety lanyard) but it’s also an impressive display of gutsy athleticism.
“We all put a foot wrong once in a while,” one commenter wrote. “It’s all about the recovery.”
The Instagram video was shared this month by @willem_powerfish, and it took place earlier that day off the coast of New South Wales, Australia, which lies on the South Pacific. The exact location, according to the poster, is a spot known as Bruns Bar where a ship channel lined with rock jetties meets the ocean. The jetties give way to a large sandbar where waves break over shallow water.
As the video demonstrates, jetties are notoriously dangerous places for boaters because of the conflicting currents and rolling waves that are amplified by the wind and tides. And by the looks of it, Jan. 16 was not a nice day to be out at the jetties. The sky is dark and the water is whipped into a brown froth by the large rollers breaking over the sandbar. Perhaps not surprisingly, the powerboat in the video appears to be the only one going out at the time. It’s an open skiff no more than 20 feet long with a tiller-drive outboard motor on the back.
At the helm of this boat is a solo angler, who identifies himself as Matty Lee in the comment section. Lee is running the boat while standing with his left hand operating the outboard’s tiller. As he runs out of the jetties and approaches the end of the rocks, he runs into a wave that’s as tall — if not taller — than he is. Lee hits the wave at a slight angle, which kicks the bow up and sends his boat flying into the air. The vessel starts to flip sideways, and for a brief second, the man is nearly horizontal over the water’s surface. The boat then comes crashing down on its side, bucking Lee into the frothy water.
This is where wearing a safety lanyard would have come in handy, as it would have triggered the motor’s kill switch, and the boat would have stopped as soon as the operator went overboard. But without this handy safety feature (which are legally required in U.S. waters on all boats less than 26 feet in length), the boat just keeps on going, driving itself in circles while Lee bobs in the waves.
Stuck in gear with the propeller spinning, the unmanned boat makes a full circle and narrowly misses the jetties. As it comes back around, the boat then heads right at Lee who, fortunately, is wearing his life jacket. He takes the opportunity to grab hold of the gunnel while the boat keeps driving in a circle. Lee pulls himself back into the boat and gets his hand on the tiller as the boat completes its second full circle in the waves. (He notes in a comment that he lost his hat but saved his sunglasses in the process.)
Now back in control of his vessel, Lee does what anyone else would have done after having a near-death experience in the jetties. He turns his boat around, putters back into the channel, and runs back to the dock (and presumably the nearest bar). By the looks of his Instagram profile, however, Lee got back on the horse soon enough. Roughly a week after the video was posted, he shared a picture of a few fish he caught after passing through the same jetties at Burns Bar, adding, “Nothing like a morning on the water to cure a bad case of ‘bar PTSD.’”