Sea — October 2002
By Capt. Bill Pike
Shut it off! Shut it off!
|Part 2: A hush came over the crowd|
My pheromones must have been really working as I turned the corner and headed for the fuel dock--the owner of the marina seemed to smell the same fear on me that my wife was sniffing, and so did her interlocutor, the Coast Guard Auxiliary guy. They both turned to watch grimly like wolves scenting prey. The man driving the approaching fishboat held back--no fool, that guy. I waved cheerily to all, trying to take the edge off, but nevertheless the look on the marina owner's face changed from one of concern to squinty calculation--she was beginning to think about damage control. A fellow with a tuna sandwich strolled over, as did a lady drinking a soda. Dinner and a show.
I began describing a great arc in front of the dock so I could come alongside, bow into the current, starboard-side-to. It was a classic approach, of course, just like in Boathandling Made Easy, a thick tome I'd left at home.
"Hey, Bill," yelled the marina owner, pointing to a wide, empty slip at the rear of the fuel dock, "put it there."
I knew she was trying to be helpful, getting me out of the mainstream, but the suggestion wrecked the classic quality of my approach. There was nothing to do but abort, make another, wider arc, and give the new game plan a shot. More spectators were attracted by the commotion, and perhaps by the boost in my pheromones, which were heating up.
The end came soon after I'd got the sportboat eased in behind the fuel dock--I decided to go back to the ol' classic approach by pivoting the boat so I could come alongside, bow into the current, only this time port-side-to. Classic... smashic! There wasn't enough room to pivot in time-honored, back-and-fill fashion, not with the level of finesse I was clinging to. Matters worsened with a frantic, fateful decision to periodically "shower down" on the throttle to overcome the chaos...vroooooooom, vroooooooom!
Sanity asserted itself in an odd way. As the sportster lurched about behind the fuel dock like a rodeo bronc in a small corral, with the 502 roaring throatily, drowning out my wife's continuing interrogatives as well as snippets of advice hurled like fond farewells from the audience, a wise refrain began to echo down the canyons of my mind, first quietly, then more insistently.
"Shut it off, Bill," the marina owner was yelling, "Shut it off."
On about the 15th repetition, the gist of the directive got through, and I rotated the key in the ignition switch. Whew! A hush came over the crowd. My wife breathed a sigh of relief and ran her fingers through her hair. The marina owner gazed at me mystically. And the Auxiliary guy coughed. Then coughed again.
What happened next was amazing. Under the influence of the forces at play, as well as the classic vectors engendered by the melee I'd set in motion, the sport simply sidled up to the back side of the fuel dock and settled there...bump.
Whether the crowd was disappointed or what, folks began to disperse just as an inspiringly honest notion struck me: My problems were of my own making! I was behaving like a ham-handed overreactor, mostly because my past featured vast, slow-moving, commercial vessels exclusively. What's more, by trying to be perfect in spite of the situation, I was driving myself and everybody around me nuts.
"Easy does it," grinned the Coast Guard Auxiliary guy, helping tie the boat up.
From then on, my small-boat handling skills started improving, and today they are fairly decent I guess, although they're a helluva long way from perfection.
That's okay--I'm makin' progress.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.