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Editor-in-Chief Dan Harding reflects on finding the right first mate, and his last cruising adventure as a free man. (And tries to make up for missing Valentines Day for a boat show … again.)

Dan and Karen Harding

In life, as in boating, it’s important to find a partner who will stand by you not just in the good times—that’s easy—but in the bad. Over the last eight years, Karen has proven to be such a partner. From convincing me to buy and restore our first boat, to spending hundreds of hours sanding, painting, priming, and doling out moral support, we’ve become a pretty good team on the water.

But don’t let me fool you; it’s been a process. In the early days we would smile and laugh as I taught her the ways of boating. And man, did we have to start with the basics.

Ropes are for land, when you’re on a boat it’s called a line. No, they’re fenders, only rookies call them bumpers. Red, right, returning. I look back on those years fondly.

Today, she puts many in the boatyard to shame with a unique combination of work ethic and positivity. Where grouchy old boaters spend most of their time leaning on jack stands grumbling about all the work they have to do, Karen can be found humming along to music, and moving from painting, to sanding, to shuttling tools—or lunch—up the ladder to where I’m typically grumbling about work I have to do.

“That’s quite the mate you have there,” an old salt said to me recently, while watching Karen wax the hull with abandon. “Taught her everything she knows,” I joked. Yes, it’s true I may have taught her about basic boat chores and what side of the buoy to stay on, but let’s be honest, anyone can do that.

It’s what she taught me about boating that deserves the real recognition. Things like:

♥ You don’t need to travel far to have an adventure.

♥ You need to change the sheets more than once a summer.

♥ Talk to strangers.

♥ Things don’t have to go perfectly to have a perfect day.

♥ Wear shower shoes.

♥ You don’t have to have every second of a boat trip planned; sometimes the most memorable moments are the ones you never saw coming.

I was reflecting on these lessons as a crew of colleagues and I cruised a Beneteau MC5 from Essex, Connecticut, to Long Beach, New York. We were headed to my wedding. Yes, despite the risk of us running south of the border, Karen permitted me to go on one last cruise as a free man (I have a feeling she was monitoring our AIS like the CIA).

The day trip with the Power & Motoryacht crew was filled with laughing, and messing with the MFD—occasionally punching in Havana as our next waypoint, just for curiosity.

I would argue it was the nicest day of the summer. Sunny, warm, but not too hot. We traded stories, shared our favorite songs, and even stopped for an alfresco lunch on the flybridge.

The Atlantic was pancake flat. Managing Editor Simon Murray was at the helm for all of a few minutes when he shouted, “Whoa, did you see that? It looked like a sailfish.”

“There’s nothing like that around here, you … WHALE! WHOA!” I shouted as I took the helm from him and brought the boat to neutral. We scanned the horizon like Ahab trying to find the beast again, but to no avail. Still, it was a chance encounter with an animal rarely seen off Long Island. I like to think it was an omen, but of what I’m still not sure.

It was a short trip, and all too soon we were tied up behind the Bridgeview Yacht Club. Surrounded by good friends with a great day of cruising in our wake, on the eve of marrying an incredible girl, I was forced to ponder a question I’ve asked myself many times before: Does it get any better than this?

Only time will tell, but when I think about the future, I can’t help but think that it just might.

This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.