November 2, 2017   Joe Cline

From the September 2004 issue of 48° North by Warren Miller

The tide had dropped 13 feet, making the ramp from the dock where my boat was tied up to the pier as steep as a ski slope in Alaska. Probably about 45° or more and as I struggled up the ramp, I saw a very strange sight.

Standing at the top was a man who was the color of Elmer’s glue wearing a baseball hat, a pair of flip-flops and what you could see of a Speedo bathing suit. He was overweight by at least a hundred and fifty pounds and his belly completely covered eighty five percent of his Speedo bathing suit.

In front of him was a dock cart full of about $800 worth of groceries, which at today’s prices wasn’t a lot of them, but never the less, they probable weighed about a hundred pounds.

I tried to caution him on trying to take his cart full of groceries down to his boat because of the steep ramp and lack of a good foothold to keep it from running away from him. This Sumo wrestler looked at me and said, “Don’t mess with me, man,” so I backed off a few feet and leaned over the railing to watch his impending grocery laden death slide.

A couple from the nearby trailer park, with their French poodle that was dyed pale blue to match the skinny owners blue hair and Nike high heel running shoes, also paused to watch the immanent disaster.

That two-wheeled dock cart was only about ten feet down the ramp when it showed the man in the Speedo suit who had lost control of the groceries. Fortunately there where no cleats on the ramp because by then Speedo-man was running as fast as his round legs could go and the cart was pulling his body farther ahead of his feet with each revolution of its wheels. Knowing that he had $800 worth of groceries in the cart, Speedo-man wasn’t about to let go of the handle, so he slid the last sixty feet of the ramp, dragged along behind that cart like a tin can tied to a just married couples escape car.

When $800 of groceries and cart hit the transition between the ramp and the floating dock it veered off to the right and into the oil slicked, seaweed covered marina water and sank like a safe with the door open. It was followed by Speedo-man’s version of a swan dive that sent large waves through the marina and rocked boats three hundred feet away.

Floating amid the garbage and oil slick where all sorts of expensive junk: food in plastic bags, chips, six loaves of white bread and a five pound bag of candy bars. Headed for the bottom where all of the expensive items: six bottles of wine, twenty pounds of steaks, canned goods, bottled water from France, a wine opener and other stuff. Also one dock cart worth $250 replacement value.

Unable to climb out of the water by himself, the dock attendant threw him a rope and towed him to a ladder so he could climb up out of the frigid, but smelly water. This involved making a trip around three different floating piers that were empty. Otherwise El Speedo would have perished in the 47° water.

Once he thawed out and his teeth stopped chattering, the dock attendant told him he had a couple of choices.

1. “I am the resident scuba diver and you can pay me $300 to dive and recover the cart and what groceries and stuff I can pick out of the mud.”

2. “You can forget the whole thing and pay the Marina $250 for the loss of the cart and try and get reimbursed by your insurance agent.”

It took over two hours for the dockhand to get into his wet suit and Scuba gear, dive for the sunken groceries and he never did locate the six bottles of wine in the muddy bottom, or so he reported. Meanwhile the bulbous man in the Speedo was recounting his near death slide to anyone who would listen as the tide came in and gradually made the ramp to the dock almost level.

When the Speedo-man started trying to get names and addresses that he could turn over to his attorney for a contingency fee lawsuit, no one would be a witness to verify his stupidity.

I had learned this lesson of never loading groceries at low tide early in my boating career when I wisely made four or five trips down the ramp with the groceries in my arms instead of one with a cart. We had to load at low tide or wait another six hours to make it through the narrows at the next slack tide.