Oops! Page 2

At Sea — February 2005
By Capt. Bill Pike

Part 2: I navigated the confusing area out near Daymark 25 with the sort of confidence Nelson no doubt displayed at Trafalgar.

Illustration: Joseph Daniel Fiedler
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• Part 1: Oops!
• Part 2: Oops! continued

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• At Sea Index

“How about a boat ride?” I suggested to him, and my brother, being as hot in the heels for novel experiences as I am (he lives in the Adirondack Mountains and seldom dips much more than a canoe paddle into the marine scene), agreed enthusiastically.

Now at the time, being a recent transplant to Florida’s wilds from the wilds of Manhattan, I hadn’t had the leisure to properly familiarize myself with the maze of oyster bars that constitutes the navigational arena at the mouth of the river I live on. The water out there is shallow, the channels are narrow, and the markers have a tendency to look like a forest of random sticks when viewed from afar, at least to the uninitiated. Undeterred by these factors and while maintaining a demeanor of unwavering confidence, I proceeded without caution, scarcely acknowledging that my only previous trips to the mouth of the river—there’d been just two—had taken place at high tide or close to it.

We zoomed off without difficulty in the Scrumpy Vixen. I navigated the confusing area out near Daymark 25 with the sort of confidence Nelson no doubt displayed at Trafalgar. Ever the older brother, I simultaneously kept up a running commentary on the passing parade, pointing out porpoises, sea turtles, green markers to starboard, red ones to port, hitting the horn occasionally to simulate whistle signals, and waving at other boats as we whooshed past with the kind of pride that goeth before the falling tide.

Coming back in was what bit me in the butt. I was barreling into the vicinity of Daymark 25 again, at a speed that had lots more to do with dramatic display than safety, when a premonition of impending doom hit. Hmmmmm. Was that a square dayboard ahead or a triangular one? Was the tide on the ebb? Instead of slowing down, which any reasonable person would have done under the circumstances, I simply goosed my bombastic commentary, a comforting move that took the edge off the mounting, subliminal anxiety.

“Right now,” I proclaimed, while pointing at a scrap of seascape whirring past, “we are proceeding from offshore…which means we put the red markers on the starboard or right-hand side of the boat, and the green markers on the…”

Kerpowwweee! The Scrump hit the oyster bar on the northern edge of the channel near Daymark 25 with way more drama than I’d been able to muster by doing figure-eights out by the sea buoy. The engine stalled. Oyster shells blasted through the air like shrapnel. Whole bushels of them. At one point, I swear an outraged mackerel even shot past. Stunned silence pervaded the wheelhouse for a minute, and then my brother gave me a droll, semiamused look.

“So that’s how it’s done,” he said.

To his credit, the tone of the response conveyed just enough sarcasm to evoke humility in his interlocutor, not hang-dog humiliation. Maybe he should write a book someday.

Previous page > Part 1: If at first you don’t succeed...welcome to the human race. > Page 1, 2

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

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