To the Editor:
This past Sunday I was at once the stupidest and luckiest person on the Island (if not the globe). Following yet another fun and festive Oar & Paddle Regatta, I departed the Little Bridge parking lot with six kayaks on my trailer and two in J-cradles on the roof of my car, bound back to Edgartown on a busy August afternoon. After a short while I saw the kayak directly above me shift somewhat in its cradle, and assumed it hadn’t been strapped down tightly; reaching up I could tell it was quite loose, and then had the sinking feeling that it might not be strapped down at all. With cars behind me I kept downward pressure on the hull, which seemed to work; as the parking turnoff at Big Bridge was jammed with cars, people, and bikes, I continued on while looking for any space on the left to pull over. Shortly thereafter a gust of wind lifted the 27-pound craft right out of my grasp and the cradle, sending it like a missile into the oncoming lane, where it bounced and rolled to a stop. With quick help from a jogger, we were able to get it into the bike path, and he actually carried it along to where I finally was able to pull over.
I’d made three critical errors: first and foremost, forgetting to strap the boat down and double-check; second, not putting on the flashers and stopping immediately as soon as I realized the boat might not be secured (didn’t want to inconvenience the cars behind me); and third, naively thinking I could hold the boat down in its cradle until I could find a safe pulloff. It wasn’t until the immediate crisis was resolved and I continued home that the full impact of what had just happened came clear. In hindsight, it was an absolute miracle that there were no cars, mopeds, VTA buses, or whatever traveling in the opposite direction on such a busy afternoon; I shudder to think of what the consequences could have been.
After a relatively sleepless night pondering such “what ifs,” I feel compelled to write in to apologize first to anyone who may have witnessed the debacle, but also to the community for an admittedly unintended but still indefensible act of negligence which fortunately only resulted in a broken rudder and a few scuffs on a shiny new boat. It could have been so much worse. Thanks again to the jogger who acted so quickly to help — and a reminder to anyone who carries kayaks, paddleboards, and the like: Always check your straps — and then check again!