Victory at Sea

At Sea - November 2001
At Sea — November 2001
By Capt. Bill Pike

Victory at Sea
Bored with life ashore? Visit a local boat ramp during a tropical storm and star in your very own low-budget thriller.

 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Victory at Sea
• Part 2: Victory at Sea continued

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• At Sea Index

It was a dark and stormy afternoon. Just a couple of hours before Tropical Storm Barry was supposed to hit the North Florida coastline. My friend Don with the 22-foot Mako called. For reasons too complicated and yawn-inspiring to go into here, he was temporarily keeping his boat in one of the slips in the boathouse out in front of my home, Mullet Mansion. He said he was a little worried about leaving the Mako in the slip during the storm. Wouldn't it be better to just pull her out of the water at the boat ramp nearby and let her safely weather the storm on a trailer? In a high-and-dry driveway?

"Sounds like a plan," I replied. "When Barry blows through tonight, the dang thing'll get chewed up in there worse than a plate o' fried chicken at a North Florida family reunion."

Don said he'd be right over, which gave me a little time to reflect on what good fun the next few hours would almost certainly bring. Now don't get me wrong. I've experienced my fair share of bad weather at sea on oil-field boats and oceangoing tugs, hair-raising episodes that left me both tongue-tied and drooling. I am not into any of this stuff at all. What I was anticipating at the boat ramp next door was the lovely convergence of two factors I've found to be just perfect for starring in your own seafaring drama: a bit of semisnotty weather you can pretend is incredibly bad and an easy, rather routine little chore (like putting a boat on a trailer at a boat ramp) you can pretend is pretty damn dangerous, if not downright epic.

Anyhow. Don showed up in a huge, commando-black Suburban with more horsepower under the hood than the Kentucky Derby, a friend named Fred riding shotgun, and a long, shiny aluminum boat trailer in tow. Upon hearing the clarion call of the Suburban's horn, I sprinted through the woods to the boat ramp, the theme from Chariots of Fire thundering in my ears. Wading thigh-deep into the swirling waters, I motioned the Suburban astern, along with Don, Fred, and the trailer, using hand signals I'd learned either in the army or on commercial boats. The use of these nifty signals, in my mind's eye, gave the whole backing-down process an aura of edgy professionalism, although it soon became apparent that Don had no idea what any of them meant. Eventually he was constrained to stick his head out the window and figure things out for himself.

With the trailer in position and Fred standing by in the rain, Don and I sprinted back through the woods to Mullet Mansion, across the porch, across the deck, out along the dock in savage gusts that were doing at least 30 mph, and into the boathouse wherein floated the Mako amid a cat's cradle of lines. A little winded from the sprint, I began casting lines off while Don leapt aboard, lowered the outboard into the water, and cranked it. With cinematic flair, I jumped aboard just as Don began backing free.

Next page > Victory at Sea, Part 2 > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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