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Split Personality

Boat ownership these days requires a weird mixture of two types of talent.

So, a bunch of us are offshore in a brand-new multi-million-dollar motoryacht one recent afternoon—I mean, way offshore—when an errant sea hammers the port bow and, as a result, a couple of buckets of seawater come zooming over the flybridge. Of course, we were all wearing sunglasses up there and guess what—everybody’s sunglasses sustained a nice saltwater spritz.

No biggie, right? But here’s the deal.

Later, as we approached our berth for the evening, with a long day in the rearview mirror, I noticed that our skipper, who I’d sort of bonded with during the trip due to similar vintages and points of view, began licking his sunglasses like he was laying into the frosting on a cupcake. Of course, what he was trying to do was remove salt from his lenses so he could get better visuals during our upcoming docking maneuvers. Heck, I’ve done the same thing myself. There’s a humble, dog-like ambiance to the exercise, but it’s effective.

But then again, there’s a certain weirdness to it too, or rather, there seemed to be on that particular evening. I mean, here we were, cruising through a modern American coastal city, in a vessel that sported a price tag approximating the ad budget for a Super Bowl commercial, with an electronics suite worthy of an Airbus A350, and enough horsepower to field a NASCAR event—and the guy was licking his sunglasses like a German shepherd.

“Uh, Fred,” I suggested. “Want me to wash ‘em off in the galley sink for you?”

Our skipper shook his head, taking a pass on my offer, and then, once we’d arrived at our slip, docked the boat with precision and authority.

For travel-related reasons, I spent that night in a distant hotel. And as I attempted to catch a little shuteye, I gotta admit that I, being something of a fo’c’s’le philosopher, let the whole episode draw me into a stint of serious cogitation. Which is how it’s ultimately become clear to me that in order to own and operate a modern powerboat these days, you gotta have a split personality.

Think of it. On the one hand, you’ve gotta be conversant with elemental stuff like, for example, if your glasses get salty, lick ‘em off—it works. Or, if the water you’re travelin’ in is supposed to be blue, according to your understanding, but instead looks brown, pull the freakin’ throttles back, brother, and check the chart.

But on the other hand? Hey, you’ve also gotta be conversant with a veritable miasma of highfalutin terms and technologies. Consider just a few of the acronyms us boaters are expected to know these days: DSC, VHF, GMDSS, AIS, MFDs, VRMs, EBLs, GPS, DGPS, MMSI, NMEA 0183, XTE, SOG, COG, BRG, LOP, DR, DC, AC, AGM, NOAA, ADF … need I go on? Plus, we’re all also supposed to have a handle on such groovy little items as waypoints, tracks, sea clutter, rain clutter, CAN bus systems, solar controllers, sub-woofers, Lithium-Ion batteries, bottom paint, and common-rail diesel defugalties, to say nothing of the performance parameters of 3M 5200 versus 4200.

Is it any wonder I never got a wink of sleep that night? Heck, when I really got to thinking about it, there was a helluva lot more stuff to think about than I’d thought there was in the first dang place!

Read more of the Exploits and Misadventures of Capt. Bill Pike here. ▶

This article originally appeared in the October 2017 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.