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As we were leaving St. John’s Harbour last week, we sailed quite close to a little pirogue with a couple of fishermen in it. When they started waving at us and gesturing at a fuel can, we could pretty easily tell what was up, they were out of gas. These guys were not in any immediate danger as they had an anchor down and thus weren’t drifting out to sea. They were, however, pretty far from shore and who’s to say whether or not they even had oars with them to row. So, even though it wasn’t convenient to do so, we dropped our sails, started our engines and turned around to go render assistance. In this case, assistance meant giving them a bit of gasoline.

The strange part about this situation is that, just minutes before we passed them, another sailboat motored by the pirogue in the opposite direction, perhaps even closer to them than we were. I assume the fishermen must have asked the other people for help too and yet they just kept right on going. Given that they were under power and not sailing as we were, it would have been a lot easier for them to help out than it was for us. Not cool!

This was not the only “rescue” situation that we have been involved with since arriving here. Earlier in the week, when Rebecca and I were still anchored in Five Islands Harbor, we came across an overturned HobieCat in the middle of the bay. The lone sailor was again, not in any immediate distress but he was about half a mile from shore and I don’t think he was going to be able to right the craft himself. Being the Good Samaritan that I am, I jumped in the water, swam over to him and using both of our strength and body weight (I’m heavier, that’s why I was doing this and not Rebecca), we were able to flip the boat back over. He thanked us and we parted company, us to return to ZTC and him to continue enjoying the fresh breeze that was blowing through the bay.

Although neither of these were, at the time, Mayday situations, where lives or vessels were in “imminent danger,” they did require assistance. We’re happy that we were present to be able to lend a hand.

Woo hoo! We did it.


  1. You’re right … that first sailboat not lending a hand, not cool! But, luckily ya’ll were nearby and “living right” as we all should. I couldn’t imagine just passing by the guy without offering to help.

    Still can’t get over the color of the water!

  2. Well done.

    Going and helping, or towing canoes/kayaks back, providing fuel etc are all normal occurences. Particularly in coastal waters of course. Helping one another is normal, right, and sometimes necessary. All sailors should do it. It is amazing that sometimes one finds those who ignore others.


    • You’re right… pretty common, especially with tenders. We had to come to people’s aid on multiple occasions and have also been “saved” once or twice ourselves when either out dinghy outboard acted up or we ran out of fuel (that only happened once).

  3. Once sailing the Gulf of Mexico, I had a power boat come over to me and ask for directions. He had a simple GPS, but no charts and had forgotten to enter in his waypoint to get back. He was heading south when he should have been heading north. I let him see my chart, helped him set his waypoint, told him a compass bearing, and was able to tell him what to look for along the way.

    He had two kids with him on a day fishing trip. No radio and was getting low on gas.

    We turned around to follow him in, just in case he ran out along the way, but he made it without further problems.

    Like your guys -no immediate danger, but potential for things to get worse.

  4. I know this sounds really cynical, but did you take any precautions in case it was a trap?

  5. Good on you. You’ve earned your daily beer!

  6. Bah… nice of you to help the fisherman, but you should have left the beach cat turtle shelled, just to teach him a lesson. (evil grin) 🙂 Maybe you could have sailed circles around him in ZTC first while shouting some version of nanny nanny boo boo….

    In all seriousness, if I ever find myself in trouble on the water, I’d like to think that there are plenty of Mike and Rebeccas out there willing to render assistance. Kudos!

    • We were actually in our dinghy when he helped out the beach cat. I would rather have let him take the dink and we take the Hobie. I think his ride was more fun than ours on that day.

      And I wouldn’t worry, I think MOST people would be there to help. I hope.

  7. On a return trip from St Martin, to English Harbor, single handed on my 30′ boat “Caprifol”, without engine or any battery power (no radio) I chose the outside Cades Reef approach about an hour after dawn. On a port tack well south of the reef I saw to my southwest a large open wood skiff at a distance that appeared to have someone frantically waving. I gybed around and headed down wind to see someone I knew, Boogie, a local Rasta of English Harbor out of gas drifting to South America. I couldn’t call for help and was a bit overwhelmed with the thought of towing this maybe 18′ boat under sail….but I had too. It was a long, long day with no sleep the night before as I sailed into the harbor towing Boogie.
    I had about $4 to my name and that was what was left given to me by a friend in St John, Virgin Islands when I was really down on my luck. I knew him from Antigua and he invited me to lunch with his crew and as he slid the change from a hundred dollar bill into my hand he said, “Ken, go back to Antigua, you have friends there, they’ll help you” So I did, in desperation, which in turn quite possibly saved Boogies life.
    It’s always a good idea to help if you can!

  8. Sorry I missed the 300 club from last week… As a very, very early reader of ZTC, I am extremely impressed by your comfort in the water. Good stuff!

  9. Most smugglers or Pirates have lots of fuel so I think that wouldn’t be an issue for them, but could be a ploy to get you close but again you get these feelings & Mike for being a good Samaritan it will come back to around & you will gain. I am sure most people that have traveled have a similar story, we do but it was in a camper in Africa & i gave water to some people in the desert as thats all they wanted but 2 weeks later some Arab dude came up to us & gave as a box of fruit for no reason but did mumble something in Arabic so it gets back around being good or bad

  10. I totally agree with helping anyone in need. I believe the phrase is “Do unto others as you would have done to you”. Your gut instinct has a way of keeping you out of most bad situations!
    However, have either of you had training in disarming someone that is armed? We (I’m speaking for all of your readers) can not afford to lose you?

  11. nice of you to help! It’s things like the ability to help others that gives life some meaning to me. Never thought that it could be a trap, but I suppose that will be something I have to think about once we are out there.

  12. That’s what it’s all about Mike, helping others and making new friends. You say that these were not “Mayday” situations but everybody knows how quickly it can go from not so serious to extremely serious in just a heartbeat. You did a good thing and it will come back to benefit you sooner or later.
    Stay safe and keep posting!

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