The bad guys are on your tail! There's nowhere to hide, nowhere to go... but if you're anywhere near a body of water, don't worry: Guaranteed, there's a boat about to leave the dock. Just run a bit faster, hit the edge of the wharf, and jump onto that bad boy! You'll be safe at last, and if you're lucky, your pursuers will try and follow— and end up swimming back to shore, shaking their fists all the while.
This also counts if you drive off a bridge and a barge shows up below. Very rarely is the subject of how the escapee gets off the boat addressed— they might end up swimming back to shore, too. Sometimes justified by having the pursuers cuss about how their quarry not only got away, but stole their boat as well. Another frequent example is a rowboat or motorboat being left unattended with the oars left or sufficient fuel near lakes and rivers. Can also extend to pre-made rafts.
In the case of rowboats or motorboats, it's common for the boat to either be busted up and sink immediately or missing or oars or fuel. Closely related to its action-movie brethren Roofhopping, Hero Stole My Bike, Trash Landing, and Train Escape. Car examples may include a Ramp Jump.
- In Shadow and Rose, when Alistair and his companions rescue Brother Genitivi from Haven, they're lucky enough to find a boat tied up on the dock that they can steal to get the injured monk away from the pursuing mob.
- What About Witch Queen? does it twice:
- Villainous example with Hans, who manages to hitch a ride on Lucky Zephyr, the last ship to leave the port before Friedrich closes it to prevent Hans' escape.
- Heroic example with Anna and Ferdinand, who don't have to wait in the smugglers' cave for long before smugglers arrive with a boat. Princess and prince hide under the plank smugglers use to protect ship from the rain and get a free transport to the city.
- Remy the rat in Ratatouille escapes from an evil chef by jumping on a boat. The chef manages to catch the first one, but he doesn't make the second.
- Parodied in 50 First Dates when Adam Sandler's character pretends to be a CIA agent, he leaps off the dock and onto some guy's jet ski. He bribes the guy to just keep driving as if this was normal.
- Dawn of the Dead (2004) does this, though the boat was the characters' intended destination all along rather than a lucky coincidence.. and their using it doesn't end terribly well.
- Subverted and inverted in The Ghost Writer. The main character is being tailed and manages to get on board the only ferry off the island. His pursuers are prevented from boarding at first, until he looks back and the guard reluctantly lets them on. He still manages to give them the slip, and leaps off back onto the island.
- Happens in In Bruges when Colin Farrell's character is attempting to outrun Ralph Fiennes, the boss of his crime syndicate.
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:
- Subverted while Indiana and Dr. Schneider are fleeing members of the Brotherhood of the Cruciform Sword. They find a boat and try to escape, but the Brotherhood members also find boats, pursue and catch up to them.
- Invoked when Indy and his dad are trying to escape Castle Brunwald. They find several boats and Indy acts like he's going to use one of them to escape, fooling even his father. However, he's really trying to trick the Nazis into thinking they used the boat: he actually plans to escape using a motorcycle with attached sidecar.
- James Bond:
- Live and Let Die: After escaping the alligator farm and burning down the drug lab, Bond steals a convenient escape boat to flee the bad guys. This leads to an awesome chase across the bayous as Bond is pursued by the villains and the police.
- The Man with the Golden Gun. Bond is being chased by goons in Thailand, and finds a longtail boat to escape down the canal. Unfortunately it stalls before he's gone too far. A Street Urchin who swims out to the boat is able to get it started again, but Bond throws him over the side as the villains have caught up with him again.
- This is done somewhat in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, when the Nazgûl are chasing the hobbits— and the hobbits pull off in the ferry, before Frodo even gets there. Naturally, Frodo has to jump for it— and makes it... just in time. (In the book, it was nowhere this dramatic; the Nazgûl follows them to the river, but is unseen until long after they've pulled off).
- The bridge version turns up in the Action Prologue of The Mechanic (2011), though it's clear the barge passing beneath the bridge is a regular event that the hitman has planned for.
- In The Navigator, Buster Keaton and his girl are out in the water off the coast of an island, about to be captured and eaten by the cannibals that inhabit said island—when a submarine surfaces completely at random beneath them, saving them from the cannibals.
- Shoot to Kill: The mysterious killer escapes the police via a boat he has waiting at a pier. However when the police chase it down with their own boat, they find the steering controls have been tied off with ropes, and the killer is actually slipping away beneath the pier on foot. The climax of the movie also has the 'leaping on a ferry as it's departing the pier' version, as a means of separating the protagonists from the other pursuing police for their final confrontation with the killer.
- This is also done in the movie Some Like It Hot, where Jack Lemmon's "Fiance" just happens to be there waiting for him in a boat.
- Invoked Trope in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. The hijackers send the subway train down a line leading to the harbour so the police will think they're escaping via boat, when they've actually got off the train already.
- Subverted in What's Up, Doc?. The chase scene ends at a pier where a ferry is departing but the beetle can't make the gap and dashes into the water, same as with the pursuers.
- In the first (of many) Dragonlance trilogies. Too bad the dwarf had a fear of water.
- Subverted in The Fifth Elephant, in which the very clever werewolves have one of their pack waiting on board the Convenient Escape Boat.
- In Flying Colours, Horatio Hornblower, Lieutenant Bush and Brown, having been captured the previous novel, are taken into France for a show trial and execution. While they are being transported, they stop near a river with a small fishing boat available. Being Badass Sailors, they are able to work out an escape once they have access to a boat and water.
- When the protagonists of the Jules Verne's In Search of the Castaways find a convenient pirogue on the shore, and an equally convenient ship a bit away, while being pursued by the Maori, this is all fine and dandy. What they didn't expect is the ship being their own Duncan.
- The absence of one of these is a source of profound shock in The Pyrates. As the Genre Savvy Colonel Blood says:
Colonel Blood: Whoever heard o' pirate ship without a small boat moored 'neath the stern an' provisioned wi' all necessities, so that fugitives can light out unseen!
- Both the Muriel and the small boat on the Royal Barge in Septimus Heap are used in this fashion by the main characters.
- Happens repeatedly in Tim Dorsey's Serge A. Storms novels, although sometimes Serge arranges things in advance, as in Electric Barracuda.
- Older Than Television: In the Sherlock Holmes adventure The Sign Of Four (1890), the bad guys try to escape Holmes and the police on a steam boat, but the police have their own patrol boat ready and give chase, exchanging bullets and poison darts.
- Played with in Sweet Silver Blues, twice. The first time, Garrett gives a thug the slip by running out to the end of a dock and onto a ship, then keeps going off the ship into the water. The thug backs off rather than encounter the Crown agents whose ship it is. The second time, Morley plays this trope straight as he runs along the dock to the ship that's taking him and Garrett home ... only he's arranged for his pursuer to be nabbed by those same Crown agents who are waiting in ambush at the dockyard.
- Time Scout: During one of his many escapes, Skeeter ends up in the Tiber. Fortunately a boat happens to be right at hand. Also, a Convenient Escape Horse, in that as soon as he gets out of the water he happens upon a champion racing horse.
- Subverted in Under the Jolly Roger: Jackie takes advantage of the carnage and chaos of a sea battle to seize a convenient lifeboat, but doesn't get too far before realizing the Wolverine is sinking. So she comes about and returns, even though she knows she's likely to be hung for piracy.
- In Watership Down, a group of rabbits manage to pull this off, though the author quickly comments that it worked mainly by chance and circumstance. Not quite a straight example, however, as they knew the boat was there and planned their whole escape around using it. The book also addresses the problems they have leaving the boat once the pursuit is over, as the river is too fast and too deep for them to swim to shore: The boat gets stuck at a bridge and the river has a calm pool just past the bridge.
- Game of Thrones. In "Hardhome", as the wights Zerg Rush the palisade there's mass panic with hundreds of wildlings running for the boats ferrying them to the ships offshore. Despite this there's still one boat left at the pier as Snow, Tormund and Edd flee the final wight attack. Presumably the sailors unloaded their passengers and then rowed back for those holding the line.
- Person of Interest. When escaping from a Samaritan facility, Sameen Shaw has a You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me! on discovering she's on an island, but then sees a fast boat moored offshore. However the escape has been arranged by her captors in a virtual reality Trick-and-Follow Ploy, so it's justified.
- Psych: In "You Can't Handle This Episode" Juliet's secret-agent brother Ewen is introduced by having him jump obstacles and dodge bullet fire while being chased. He runs onto a public beach, jumps into the water, knocks a civilian off of a Jet Ski and zooms off to safety. All while having a conversation with Juliet on the phone.
- Shakespeare & Hathaway - Private Investigators: Played for Laughs in "The Rascal Cook", where the killer flees from Frank and Lu by jumping into a swan pedal boat that is on the bank and pedalling out on to the Avon River. Frank and Lu commandeer another pedal boat and pursue, resulting in a Low-Speed Chase.
- In Grand Theft Auto, you can often rely on a boat being near water to help you make an easy escape:
- An example is The Snow Storm in Grand Theft Auto IV, where after you fight your way out of the hospital you can continue to push through the police on land, or take the easy route and jump in a nearby boat.
- The same game has a mob boss pull this stunt, forcing you to chase him along the coast on a bike (good thing he didn't think to travel out to sea...)
- Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City had the problem of 'instant drowning', which made leaving the boat problematic. The hero of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas could swim (and nobody else could) so often just leaping out into open water was a viable escape strategy. And funny, if anyone tried to follow.
- In Left 4 Dead it happens in the second scenario after the characters find the town that you spend the first couple of chapters trying to flee to has already been overrun and they decide to head to the river.
- Paper Mario: Sticker Star: There's a level in World 5 that has Mario going down a river there just happens to be raft floating around for him to use.
- In the first level of Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and The Flame, the Prince has to make his escape by jumping to catch a departing ship.
- Somewhat inverted in Time Crisis, as it's one of the Bad Guys who escapes this way, and you have to give chase on your own motorboat.
- In The Dreamer, Alan and Beatrice escape Gen. Howe's ship by boat.
- Dora the Explorer : If Dora and her friends run into a body of water blocking their path like a lake or river with no bridge, don't be surprised if there's a rowboat nearby to help them out.
- The Simpsons did it several times.
- On one occasion, Homer is trying to escape his guilt at not giving his dad a kidney, so he hops onto a departing ship full of "lost souls."
- They also did it in "Homer the Heretic": The Flanders family is chasing Homer in their car, so Homer heads to Springfield Harbor. He drives off a pier, landing on a garbage barge. The Flanders' hit the brakes, almost falling into the water. Homer waves back at them, then asks the captain where the barge is headed. "To Garbage Island," he replies. This is apparently a reference to the film White Lightning.
- They also invert is with the Show Within a Show Knightboat. The boat always has a canal or inlet that it can follow when enemies try to escape by going inland.
Lisa: Or a fjord.