Divorced With Children

At Sea — April 2004
By Capt. Bill Pike

Divorced With Children
Weekend cruising with a couple of kids can be wonderful. Or not.

Illustration: Joseph Daniel Fiedler
 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Children
• Part 2: Children continued

 Related Resources
• At Sea Index

It was mid-July, some 16 years ago. For months I’d been looking forward to a weekend voyage with my ten-year-old son Jesse and 12-year-old daughter Kelley. And now here we were, all three of us, walking down the dock.

My frontal lobes danced with delight. I could almost see the weekend playing out—a happy threesome, bonding at levels heretofore unheard of in the annals of parenting, parenthetically enjoying the comforts of a roomy little cruiser on loan (free of charge) from her manufacturer to the magazine I’d just started working for. We’d swim, snack, visit various ports, familiarize ourselves with the new cruiser, then come home late Sunday, somehow ennobled.

I caught my reflection in the water. A recently divorced Merchant Marine dad who’d been largely absent from his children’s lives over the years, I was about to show them how smoothly I could transition into a normal, stay-at-home father, with a job test-driving and writing about recreational boats. Whatta guy!

We loaded our stuff onboard. I popped the hatches in the saloon to check the oil in the mains, noted with satisfaction the ponderous presence of two giant, automotive-style, 502-cubic-inch V-8s, dipped the sticks, looked around, put the hatches back, and headed for the bridge.

Vrooom went one 502. Vrooom went the other. I checked the two fuel gauges on the dash—full, both of `em—then cast off our lines (Jesse and Kelley were inside making sandwiches) and motored the cruiser out of the slip, heading for the high seas.

“Wanna drive?” I yelled down to them from the helm. Both kids quickly declined. “We’re watching TV,” they yelled back, leaving me to momentarily wonder how in the world they’d gotten the entertainment center going so quickly when I still hadn’t figured how to turn on the stereo.

I throttled up to top speed with enthusiasm, though. The waters ahead were smooth and the atmosphere fresh, sunny, and salty. After leaning back in the helm chair, putting my feet up on the dash, checking the chart, and tweaking the autopilot, I glanced over at the fuel gauges again, just for the heck of it. I jolted bolt upright and put both feet flat on the floor. The needles were reading significantly less than they had just minutes before!

“Jeeeez!” I exclaimed, dropping immediately back to two-thirds throttle. Sure, the cruiser was free, but not the dang gas! I was gonna have to negotiate a bank loan in the next port to keep my big blocks goin’.

Just then I heard Kelley yell ominously, “Dad, come quick!” I throttled back all the way, sprang from the helm, skipped the ladder, and entered the saloon on a dead run. Kelley was pointing a droopy peanut-butter sandwich at her brother, who was sprawled on the settee, playing with a Gameboy, listening to a tape player via headset, and watching the Roadrunner blow Wyle E. Coyote to smithereens on TV, all at the same time. “Jesse’s bein’ mean to me...I wanna go home,” she scowled.

Next page > Part 2: The truth hit me like a sack of fish heads. > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the March 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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