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Voyaging

Joy (Stick) Ride to Key West Page 2

Marathon's an earthy, easy-livin' place. One of our jolly band stands on the 48’s bow looking due west. Sunsets in the Keys are spectacular.

Handling was excellent, though, mostly thanks to Zeus’ high-powered steering hydraulics. The 48’s touch-of-a-finger cornering agility was so empowering, in fact, that at one dicey juncture, a few miles west of Elliot Key, she helped me avert disaster and the possible ruination of the whole lovely trip. I was whooshing through clear, yellowish, unruffled water at the time, while simultaneously monitoring both the road ahead and our reef-strewn course line on a Raymarine E120 GPS plotter. When I first spotted the obstruction, it was at considerable remove and looked like a small, easily avoided wooden stick. But when I got closer, the enormity of the thing dawned: It was a huge tree trunk, with roots intact and most of its automobile-size substance submerged! "Hang on," I shouted, spinning the wheel a quarter turn. The 48 banked so quickly into safe water that Duncan’s eyes widened like saucers and Salter yelled, "Yeeeehaw !"

The rest of the trip was thankfully devoid of such excitement, but taking on fuel in Key West was a revelation. We’d burned approximately 220 gallons, and at the local rate of $4.79 per gallon, the damages amounted to $1,053.80, a rather robust sum for a single-engine trawler guy like me who’d last topped off several months before at considerably less. And what seemed to add insult to injury was the grumpiness of the attendant. "Nice day," I noted with good cheer. "Huh," he replied.

Duncan and Salter did pretty well as I backed the 48 into her slip at the Galleon Marina. With a little help from dockmaster Mike Wilkinson, Jr., they crisscrossed our stern lines, ran forward and after springs, and creatively dealt with a bow that protruded well beyond the entrance pilings. Not a harsh word was spoken.

I did pretty well, too. Because we had a super-size dinghy on the swim platform, said dinghy’s outboard stuck out well beyond the starboard hull side, effectively increasing our beam by a couple of feet. On a conventional inboard boat, this sort of thing would have presented a handling challenge. But on the Zeus-powered 48, it was no big deal--I simply zhooped us sideways whenever the breeze threatened to jam the motor against the adjoining finger pier. "Bet your boat has one of those pod-type drive systems," observed Wilkinson while helping us with our washdown hose.

Duncan and Salter began mixing some shoreside fun with the acquisition of seagoing expertise. The three of us enjoyed memorable dining experiences at both the Half Shell Oyster Bar on Key West Bight and Pepe’s Cafe & Steak House on Caroline Street. The conch chowder at the former is excellent, and the breakfast at the latter is super-excellent as well as inexpensive. Traditional Eggs Benedict, for example, cost us just $10.10 apiece on Wednesday morning and included Canadian bacon that was the real deal--easily a quarter-inch-thick and lip-smacking good. Just the ticket for a couple of nautical newcomers who’d been sporting around in a dinghy since dawn, exploring backwaters and shooting photography for PMY.

Things continued apace for the next three days. We docked at Marathon Marina & Boat Yard Wednesday evening next to a spectacularly maintained Tollycraft 48 Cockpit Motoryacht owned by Paul and Karen Clute, who loaned us their fold-up bikes for a run to West Marine for oil-absorbent pads; my failure to properly seat the dipstick on the starboard main during a routine check precipitated a minor oil spill in the engine room. Thursday evening we docked at Marina Del Mar on Key Largo, a tricky spot at the end of a long, narrow canal and tough to get to without the local knowledge dockmaster Candi MacDuff helpfully dispenses over the VHF. And finally we returned to Miami Beach Marina late Friday afternoon, where we topped off fuel and water, cleaned our boat’s interior and exterior, and shared a round of valedictory handshakes.

But here’s the kicker--and the real end of the story. Shortly after we’d arrived at Marina Del Mar, a guy standing on the foredeck of a Mainship 43 Trawler parked near the dockmaster’s office made a better wrap-up remark than I could have possibly come up with. The guy’s name was Frank DiFilippo, and he was a salty-looking ex-charterboat operator. I’d watched him squinting at us as we’d come in, first pivoting at the mouth of our slip, then sidling sideways about four feet to counter the effects of a 15- to 20-knot crosswind, then backing down obliquely, and finally tying up with all the casual efficiency of a frowzy bunch of pirates.

"What a performance," Frank said, shaking his head in near disbelief.

"Thanks," I replied, convinced the man was applauding Duncan and Salter as much as Sea Ray’s soon-to-be-intro’d Zeus-powered 48 Sundancer.

For more information on Sea Ray Boats www.powerandmotoryacht.com/sea-ray/

This article originally appeared in the November 2008 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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