Just recently, I had the good fortune to be cruising along the Amalfi Coast with my wife in an altogether lovely Maestro 82 motoryacht. The day was a beaut, of course. The weather tends to be warm this time of year in Italy, or at least along her shores. But it's seldom what you'd call hot, at least by North Florida standards.
Anyhooooo, I was standing in the cockpit of the Maestro, observing the ways of Nature, when a member of her crew dashed past gesticulating, pointing, and apparently very excited. Jeeeeshhhhh!
The guy's name: Quincy Simmons. His resume: Bermuda ferry boat captain turned yacht skipper, with a military background thrown in for good measure. His pertinent enthusiasms: apparently buoyage systems and their relationship to navigation.
"A cardinal mark," he yelled, obviously fixated on the gizmo shown above, whizzing past at well over 30 knots. "A cardinal mark--first I've seen in years."
Now my first instinct, I'm ashamed to admit, was to declare: "Hell yes Quincy! A freakin' cardinal mark," thereby convincing the young man, as well as my wife BJ and several others standing around, that I both recognized this dang thing and had a solid grasp of what it was.
But somehow, the truth welled up albeit slowly. I mean, I'm supposed to be a knowledgeable guy. I have a 3,000-ton Freight & Towing license hanging on the wall of my office, with an unlimited tonnage endorsement for the Great Lakes. I know how, or used to know how, to use a sextant. I'm getting gray in spots, and wrinkled. Why the heck was I looking at this goofy thing like it was a device that had just fallen from another planet?
"Come again, Quincy?" I asked.
Quincy looked just a little disappointed in me.
Cardinal marks, he then explained, are used to denote regions of unnavigable water (reefs, shoals, etc.). There are essentially four of the suckers: Eastern, Southern, Western, and Northern. If you see one, and from what Quincy told me, they can be found in both Region A and Region B (which includes the United States) of the IALA Maritime Buoyage System, you should pass the darn thing on its named direction to be safe. Or to put it more plainly, you should pass to the north of a Northern Mark, to the south of a Southern Mark, etc.
The cardinal mark shown above, incidentally, is a Southern Mark, easily recognized by the two arrows that point downward or, in a sense, south. Two arrows pointing up denote a Northern Mark. Two arrows with the points touching (sorta like a wine glass...wine starts with W...get it?) denote a Western Mark. And the only mark remaining (with arrows that point in opposite directions) is the Eastern Mark.
There are several possible explanations for my ignorance (or total forgetfulness) concerning all this stuff:
One, my memory banks have become so overloaded over the years with matters great and small that some details have been dropped or perhaps filed elsewhere. Has anyone thought about developing an external hard drive for the human brain?
Two, the pizza I'd eaten earlier that afternoon perhaps sported ingredients that produced a subtle loss of memory, but just enough to trip me up on the navigational fine points. I swear, I spotted a lotus blossom or two squished beneath all those green peppers!
Three, cardinal marks ain't all that popular stateside these days. I mean, how many have you seen lately? Really?
You'll be able to read more about the Maestro 82 in an upcoming issue of PMY, by the way. Or at least I think you will. I can't remember for sure, but I think I'm supposed to be writing a story about my latest Italian adventure. Which reminds me--I should call New York and see if that is indeed the case!