Don’t know Rhymes with

Island Jane Magazine- Elizabeth Jolin

The captain had no idea where he was going.

In the seconds before we plowed onto the flat, my husband calmly reached forward and said, “You want to head a little to starboard here to miss this flat.”

The captain did head a little to starboard, missed the flat, and then came off a plane to get his bearings. He said, “Thanks man! I’ve never been here before.”

Of course, I couldn’t resist asking him the obvious question, “So, if you’ve never been here before, why were you driving like you had your eyes closed? Why didn’t you use your GPS, or slow down, or even stop?!” At this point, it was dawning on me how nearly we came to possible serious injury and I was steamed.

His response was classic and dismissive, “Oh, well, these things always work out at the last minute. And I don’t want the people on the boat to think I don’t know where I’m going.”

I actually sort of envied his confident stupidity because he really had no problem operating a boat without knowing where he was or where he was going. I can completely relate to the pride issue, but, somehow, he wasn’t connecting what his passengers would think of him when he wrecked the boat.

If You Don’t Know – GO SLOW!

I want to know exactly where I am at all times…and what I am going to run into.

Operating under the “Don’t Know, Go Slow” theory means it’ll take you more time to get where you want to go, BUT you will get there with an intact lower unit and propeller!

This idea of slowing down when you have so much power at hand in the throttle seems somehow contrary to power boating. And yet, it saves so much on repair bills, it is totally worth it.

“Go Slow” Theory Works at Night!

Spending a night on a flat hurts the boat and the ego. It hurts even more when you know you could have prevented it by just slowing down. The longest, coldest night of my life was spent on a flat – very near land because we didn’t slow down. We were in a rush because it was cold and windy and, for some reason, rather than taking the clearly marked channel, we took the shortcut in the dark, at our usual speed. We whacked the lower unit on a submerged rock, just as we were lifted right onto the flat. I still wonder what we were thinking running the shortcut in the pitch of night.

This was the night I realized “don’t know” rhymes with “go slow”. There is no need to spend time aground to learn this lesson. Trust me. When you aren’t sure where you are going, just slow down and figure it out before you get back on a plane.

Captain Elizabeth Jolin owns She’s at Sea, a Boat Handling Course for Women. She has been chartering and teaching women to boat in Islamorada for the past 20 years. Contact her at to comment, ask boating questions or to suggest article topics. She would love to hear from you.

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