Drinking While Singlehanding

The Catalina 36 was nicely fitted out with lifesaving gear, lazyjacks, a dodger, a rollerfurler and more. But when the helmsman falls asleep, none of that helps.

© 2013 Rich Kane

We can’t help feeling a little sorry for Stephen Fryer. But not too sorry. Because the apparent reason that his nicely fitted-out Catalina 36 Why Knot achieved an unplanned ‘haulout’ on a popular stretch of Laguna Beach last Sunday was that he was allegedly intoxicated. Of all the ways a sailor might earn his 15 minutes of fame, this has got to be one of the more embarrassing. But at least no one was hurt.

According to various Southern California sources, Fryer, 47, was singlehanding to Catalina from his San Diego homeport, when he fell asleep. Apparently he was motorsailing, but it is not clear whether or not he was using an autopilot. In any case, drinking while singlehanding offshore, even on a short crossing like that one, is never a great idea.

Conditions were mild when Why Knot went up on Laguna Beach on Sunday, much to the puzzlement of onlookers.

© 2013 Webb Logg

Not only has Fryer been charged with a BUI (boating under the influence), but because he couldn’t afford the $9,000 bill to cover the hazmat cost of removing the fuel from his boat, he was forced to transfer ownership to the city of Laguna Beach — no doubt that’s just what that affluent city needed.

According to authorities, Fryer refused to leave the stricken Why Knot until ‘encouraged’ to do so by rescuers.

© 2013 Don Leach / Coastline Pilot

According to the Insurance Information Institute, over half of all boating accidents involve alcohol or drugs, and alcohol is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. The U.S. Guard reports that BUI incidents increase boating fatalities by approximately 34% percent. Sobering statistics. It would be disingenuous for us to say that boating and brewskis should never go together, but if you’re going to drink while on the water, please be sensible. Otherwise the consequences could be disastrous.

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