The Jitters Page 2

At Sea — June 2004
By Capt. Bill Pike

The Jitters
Part 2: Who in his right mind wouldn’t be a little unsettled by all this?

Illustration: Joseph Daniel Fiedler
 More of this Feature

• Part 1: The Jitters
• Part 2: The Jitters continued

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• At Sea Index

Such feelings resonate with me big-time. I remember as if it were yesterday, spending an awful night in a frowzy waterfront hotel in Buffalo, New York, some 30 years ago, waiting to board a Great Lakes ore carrier for a six-month stint as a maritime academy cadet. I recall lying in the worry-fraught darkness, unable to sleep, wishing for a convenient twist of fate of my own, one that would somehow miraculously prevent me from actually joining the M/V Buffalo in the morning. And I remember numerous other nights over the ensuing years, spent in numerous other hotels around the world, fervently wishing for the same thing, whether it was an oceangoing tug I was to board the next morning, a ship, or even a sweetly provisioned yacht.

This last bit’s a crucial one, I think, at least for today’s passagemaking enthusiasts. While the physical and psychological constraints inherent in working on commercial vessels make a certain hangdog reticence about doing long trips on them understandable, it seems highly unlikely, at least at first glance, that yachts, which are more expansive and plush by comparison, would evoke the same sentiment. Yet believe it or not, folks, I discovered well over a decade ago that I’m just as reluctant about commencing a long, potentially enjoyable recreational trip as I used to be about commencing long commercial ones.

Some seafarers may not be able to identify with me, of course, but some may. So delving into precisely why a reasonable, middle-aged guy like me would continue to get a little antsy and neurotic prior to embarking upon long recreational passages may well prove helpful, at least to kindred spirits who, in the midst of exhilarating preparations for their own passages, are blindsided by strange, seemingly unnatural feelings of dread.

Here’s my thinking on the subject. In a sense, by firing up the powerplants and casting off the lines of a modern cruising boat, seafarers of today, like seafarers of yore, walk unabashedly into the teeth of the unknown. Old friends, convivial surroundings, comfortable routines, all will more or less evaporate as the vessel removes herself and her crew from the familiar. Although it’s true that a new, undiscovered life awaits onboard, it’s also true that the unpredictable personal traits of individual crew members will figure in it, as will the vagaries of the weather and the idiosyncrasies of the vessel herself. Who in his right mind wouldn’t be a little unsettled by all this?

But here’s the good news. (And, I suppose, if there weren’t a whole lot of it, guys like my pilot friend and I would have abandoned the so-called steady trade years ago, opting for lubberly lives ashore, slinging gumbo and selling insurance.) Like clockwork, within an hour or so of joining either a recreational or a commercial vessel for an extended junket, I recover from the symptoms of both seasickness and the jitters—totally and joyously.

There’s a smidgen of philosophy at the heart of this happy happenstance, I believe. For indeed, the unknown’s a scary place to be heading, especially these days, via boat or not. But then, it’s one of the few destinations left on this vast blue Earth of ours where freedom truly resides.

Just ask Jimmy.

Next page > Part 1: Off to Tahiti soon? Expect a little fear and loathing first—it’s part of the deal. > Page 1, 2

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

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