Sea — November 2001
By Capt. Bill Pike
Victory at Sea
|Part 2: Cucumber coolness under fire|
"Good," yelled Don with a look of grim determination on his face, which was framed by the hood of a rough-and-ready foul-weather coat. I replied with a thumbs-up signal and a grin like the one Burt Lancaster used in The Crimson Pirate. I remember striking a bit of a heroic pose up forward, somewhere between Washington crossing the Delaware and Sean Connery conning the Red October, as we made our way over to the boat ramp through frothy waves that were running two to three feet, at least. My wife was watching from the living room, undoubtedly with bated breath. And perhaps a tasty snack food.
My finest hour came as the Mako nosed between the trailer's tall PVC guides. With Don shouting over the wind about being careful, I eased monkey-like over the bow--I didn't start out my commercial seafaring career as a Mississippi deckhand fer nothin'--and planted my deckshoe-shod feet, first tentatively then securely, upon the beams of the trailer, just long enough to facilitate hopping off into the water to help Fred guide the bow and keel straight onto the trailer's rollers. The agility I lavished upon this action was undoubtedly astounding to watch and incredibly gratifying for an old guy like me to perform. I mean, how often does any middle-aged adult get to do anything that looks really cool and worthy of background music in public today? Thank God for boats! And tropical storms that do serious damage--but not anywhere close by.
A few important words about fashion. For his brush with King Neptune, Fred chose a foul-weather jacket a lot like Don's. Either jacket, incidentally, would have been suitable for wearing on the bridge of a destroyer escorting convoys across the North Atlantic during World War II, The Big One. I went with a Filson shirt myself, a desert-tan, 100-percent cotton, feather-cloth long-sleeve model that was open slightly at the collar, thus allowing for fast movements and cucumber coolness under fire. Bluejeans and deckshoes finished out the ensembles for all three of us. Which only makes sense: It's tough to feel really valiant and daring in a pair of shorts. I don't know why, but it is.
The payoff was sweeter than syrup. With Don revving the 200-hp hand grenade on the transom of the Mako and Frank and I cranking on the little windlass at the head of the trailer, we collectively snugged the bow home. We did this with the total cooperation of Mother Nature, who poured down torrents of special effects that included lashing rain, legions of frothy broadside seas, and a moaning of the wind that was a lot like you hear toward the end of the movie version of The Perfect Storm. At the seeming height of the melee, with the boat finally free of her element and lashed down securely on the trailer in the parking lot and the Suburban ready and raring to roar, Don said to Fred and me, "We done good, guys!"
It was a thrillingly fitting denouement, of course, dramatically augmented by devil-may-care grins all around and feelings of camaraderie that only shared peril engenders. I loved every minute of it. In fact, as I sprinted back home through the woods yet again, I wondered for just a teensy-tiny moment whether Don and Fred might like to come back after a while and do an encore. Only this time with a camcorder.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.