At Sea — September 2000
By Capt. Bill Pike
2: Tooling along in the Scrump
Tooling along in the Scrump, examining the shiny waters ahead for telltale half-moon-shape swirls, mud trails, or the slightest hint of a snout or tail, I was constrained to conclude that all the recent hoopteedoodle about manatees in Florida is pretty darn perplexing from the vantage point of the average recreational boater. I'm certainly not into carelessly injuring or mortally wounding friendly, inoffensive living creatures. But just as certainly, I'm not into replacing my beloved, propeller-driven Scrump with a paddle-powered canoe or chugging around the inland waters of Florida at paddle-powered speeds all the time. What's the answer?
The afternoon wore on. At length, after Mr. John and I had covered enough mileage to put the Shell River and the possible manatees well astern, I eased the Scrump's throttles forward and put us on plane. In wider, deeper water now, where most commercial-fishing and recreational boats run at speed most of the time, I figured the chances of encountering a manatee were slim to none. But just the same, all the way home, I continuously dealt with a niggling doubt at the back of my mind. Mr. John enjoyed himself nevertheless, surveying a domain he was once master of: golden sawgrass marshes, tributary rivers and creeks, hardwood hammocks, ospreys wheeling in the sky, and alligators sunbathing in the mud.
A couple of weeks later, early in the morning, I went over to Mr. John's house to bring him a box of chocolate-chip cookies from a bakery in town. Surrounded by thick woods of oak and pine, the place looks like an old, overgrown shack or hunting camp from the outside, but inside it's nicely finished off and comfortable, even in the summer, because of all the shady trees. There's a shower stall made of cypress slats out back. Mr. John uses the thing all year, cold weather or no, a gutsy habit that at least partially refutes the concerns I sometimes have about his failing health.
As is sometimes the case, we wound up sitting in rocking chairs on the front porch for a spell, looking off into tall, fragrant southern pines, warming up in the morning light. Eventually, I brought up a subject that was still bugging me: manatees.
"Harmless, gentle things," Mr. John said, after I'd finished introducing the topic. The ensuing silence was deafening.
"Yeah," I agreed at length, impatiently pushing for a bit of easily accessible wisdom from a guy who's been around these parts a lot longer than I have. "But how do you think I should use my boat so I can legally, ethically, and peacefully co-exist with the dang manatees?"
"It doesn't matter what I think, Bill," he replied, chomping into a cookie with characteristic relish, "What do you think?"
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.