Friday, July 20 , 2018, 12:06 am | Overcast 66º


Captain’s Log: Scariest Things I’ve Heard Said at Sea

There are words of warning and there are scary comments and questions. Nature makes sounds of warning or disaster. Somehow when on a boat at sea, such things take on a new level of intensity and options (like running) are off the table.

I’ve heard some things that may have cost me at least a month off the end of my life.

Some danger/warning sounds have a place where it is appropriate and when heard elsewhere cause strange sensations.

One such time I recall is when a passenger on a fishing charter, out on the open ocean, reared his head back and suddenly hollered out at the top of his lungs, “Timber!”

I couldn’t help but quickly look around, even knowing the chances of a falling tree striking us was more than remote.

Ever felt like just tossing someone overboard? That’s the way I was feeling. Actually, his buddies obviously felt similarly and I got the impression he regularly deserved walking the plank.

Another one I’ve heard is someone yelling “Incoming!” That makes people think we’re being fired on and again is deserving of a sentence of “Walk the plank, ye scourge of the sea!”

One I’ve heard a few times by pranksters who have no idea how serious these words are for a sea captain and crew is when someone assumes a very worried voice and loudly asks, “Captain what is all this water coming up on deck from below?”

I recognize that they think it is all very funny, but it makes me want to stuff the feller below decks and tell him to watch for rising bilge water.

Okay, maybe I’m a little guilty myself.

There's a place about a half-mile off the front side of Santa Rosa Island where a submerged but shallow reef can be quiet for some time until a set of large swells sweeps in. The fishing can be great there, and I’ll have passengers busily catching fish just 30 yards from the reed but in deeper water.

When a big swell encounters that shallow reef, it builds a breaking wave that easily be double overhead, and when it breaks it sounds like a large-caliber rifle going off. Passengers jump about two feet off deck and spin around to look for the impending disaster.

That wave goes away right after the reef so I know we’re not in danger, but I confess it is a fun moment.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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