At Sea — February 2005
By Capt. Bill Pike

If at first you don’t succeed...welcome to the human race.

Illustration: Joseph Daniel Fiedler
 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Oops!
• Part 2: Oops! continued

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• At Sea Index

I’ve got a couple of shelves of books in my office that are misleading, at least in one respect. Why I bought the books in the first place is anybody’s guess. Maybe because they’ve got strong, gutsy, compelling titles like Powerboat Manual For Awful Weather and Cruising—From A to Z and Beyond. I even wrote one of the dang things myself some years back, when I was young and didn’t know any better: The Complete Book of Motorboating, mercifully out of print today.

Of course, I’m totally down with the fact that I’m making a rather controversial generalization here by denigrating so many tomes dedicated to the dissemination and improvement of recreational seafaring skills and techniques. Certainly, how-to and other instructional works have made, and continue to make, significant contributions to the understanding of disciplines like navigation, boat handling, and seamanship. But still, like I said, there’s something essentially misleading about the instructional-marine-book genre as a whole.

Crack one sometime, just for grins. If you’re a fast and attentive reader, it’ll shortly give you the solid, awe-inspiring impression that its author is an incredibly salty soul who’s never goofed in the past and, if the all-knowing tone of the scribbling is swallowed (hook, line, and sinker), will never goof in the future.

Pure, unadulterated bilge water? You betcha! And I’m not the only guy who thinks so. Just the other day I had the good fortune to test a boat with a manufacturer’s rep who turned out to be a seafarer with training and experience well above the mean. Like me, he’d transitioned into yachts from the commercial realm—or more specifically, from skippering purse-seiners in Alaska. And also like me, he was either seasoned enough or mature enough—or possibly both—to admit he’d pulled more than a few boners in his time.

We hit it off from the get-go. We talked and joked nonstop all day—two guys presumably expert in the maritime field, if only due to the hard knocks they’d taken while bashing around in it. And in the end, I think we informally, but completely, proved one of life’s little verities: Everybody screws up on a regular basis, even experts. And what’s more, I think we fleshed out yet another verity, albeit a paradoxical one: People relate to each other more deeply in terms of their goofs than they do in terms of their successes. What generated the wildest merriment that day—and indeed, the truest feelings of shared humanity—were not the occasional tales of derring-do that got tossed into the mix for good measure, but all the funny stories we shared about the dumb boat-related stuff we’d done over the years. Here’s one I’m particularly proud of:

It starts toward the end of a visit my brother Mike paid to Mullet Mansion, my home in northern Florida. For over a week he’d been helping me install a new kitchen—new cabinets, new appliances, new everything. Because of the age of the Mansion and the absence of square corners and level surfaces, the work had been taxing. Nevertheless, we’d finished early, a development that left us an open afternoon.

Next page > Part 2: I navigated the confusing area out near Daymark 25 with the sort of confidence Nelson no doubt displayed at Trafalgar. > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the January 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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