Wow! Power & Motoryacht’s recent jaunt to Cumberland Island, a gorgeous, 18-mile-long stretch of sand, sawgrass and ancient live oaks on Georgia’s southeastern coast, came off without a hitch. Not only did the Betty Jane II make the journey north from Jacksonville and back with nary an engine-related hiccup, but all her auxiliary systems worked like a charm as well. Which blows me out the water, to be truthful, given that every one of these systems was virtually brand-new at the time of the jaunt and for the most part untried in terms of the long haul. I can tell you this in good conscience because I’m the guy who installed most of the lot.
Oh yeah, I’m braggin’ here. Forgive me. But, beyond bragging, I’m also attempting to convey how grateful I am for the luck we had. I mean, so many things could have gone wrong but didn’t.
Lemme fill you in on the three biggest things I worried about as the four-day extravaganza unfolded. First, there was the fuel issue—the diesel in Betty’s tanks was darn near old enough to vote. So, as we purred along, I kept fretful tabs on the pitch of Betty’s engine, with cat-and-mouse intensity, ready to immediately pull ’er back should the stalwart Yanmar start to falter or fade, a happening that would have necessitated dropping the hook for a long, time-consuming period while we installed a fresh fuel filter element.
Then there was the new Aqua-Air reverse-cycle air conditioner—while half of my mind tried to snooze after lights-out in the evenings, the other half was continually bedeviled by the notion that I should pay a highly disruptive visit to the engine room “just to check on things,” as I told myself. Questions hammered me. Did that occasional, belowdecks rumble somehow spell the demise of my expensive new AC system? Was the seawater pump whooshing too long? Was that momentary whine the impeller suffering a lugubrious, whirring meltdown? And what about all that gear stowed in the salon? Could it eventually nix air flow on the return side and cause a freeze-up? Yikes!
Then finally, there were the terrors hovering over Betty’s fresh-as-a-daisy sanitary system—would all the new components stand the strain of four guys on board for four days? Or would Betty and I be tossed into the teeth of existential despair by stinky leaks? Unsettling blockages? And maybe even a total, catastrophic breakdown? With all the attendant horrors I’ve come to expect over the years, due to an especially twisted form of karma that so often teaches me its hoary lessons via plumbing issues of an unimaginably gruesome nature.
Of course, worrying about potential troubles is pretty much par for the course for any good skipper. After all, the need to anticipate problems and solutions well ahead of time is not just the bane of a good skipper’s existence, it’s also his responsibility. But there’s yet another factor that’s at least partially responsible for the good fortune we experienced during our little voyage. I can synopsize it in just four words: Don’t do anythin’ stupid!
A modest example. Not long after arriving on Cumberland -Island, we came across a herd of the island’s famous feral horses, leftovers from the days when farming and equestrian pursuits prevailed. And not long after that I personally came face-to-face with my very first wild horse, a happening that caused me to vacillate between stroking the old boy’s super-soft nose—a thing I’ve loved to do since I was a kid—and heeding the warning that seemed to flash from his fiery, reddish eyes: Touch me, buddy, and the whole damn bunch of you will be running for your lives, with feral steeds in hot, freakin’ pursuit!
“Hey, Bill,” warned Dan. “Better not touch him.” Did I waver? Yup, I must admit. But then I got to thinkin’—I’d put a whole lot into this wonderful little trip so far. Worry, sweat, heart, soul. So, why not stick with the responsible, hands-off policy advocated by Cumberland’s park rangers as well as by my colleagues? And I did ... as luck would have it.