It turns out there's a lot that can go wrong when you enjoy hearing the sound of your own voice just a little too much.
They say confession is good for the soul. So, in keeping with the apothegm, I am going to let fly a true humdinger—I mean something I am embarrassed by because, heck, I should be embarrassed by it, considering my age and the elevated state of consciousness to which I sometimes suspect I have arisen.
Let’s start with my good friend Bob, a big-time college football coach now retired. Besides being a continuing authority on gridiron happenings, Bob’s a lover of the outdoors, including waterborne activities that entail small boats and bass fishing. So why not introduce the old boy to the wiles of larger vessels, I asked myself. Why not give him a ride in my salty trawler, thereby imparting a whiff of true, bluewater seafaring?
Bob was game. And as we cast our lines off, with the intention of traveling a modest distance across a fair-sized bay to a modest anchorage for a modest lunch—keep introductory experiences manageably modest, I always say—Bob seemed genuinely intrigued, ready to enjoy and even learn.
Now, you’da thunk this was good. But it wasn’t. As a matter of fact, it escorted onto the scene one of the gloomier aspects of my personality—my inner pontificator. And this occurred despite the presence of a trusty truth teller on the bridge, my wife BJ, who’d come along to enjoy Bob’s company as well as the sprightly weather. While BJ has been known to rein in my unbounded ego with a well-observed comment or two, her powers were for some reason diminished on this particular day.
As a result, I became a little too preoccupied with, let’s face it—me! Could this state of affairs have had something to do with an attempt to show my old friend how truly knowledgeable I am within my own salty realm? Especially since everyone on board was aware of how knowledgeable Bob was within his own rough-and-tumble realm? Who knows.
“Over there, Bob,” I droned at the helm, “you have red buoys. We say, ‘red-right-returning’ to remember that when you’re returning from offshore you put the red buoys on the right-hand side and the green ones to the left.”
“Huh,” Bob replied while checking on something over his left shoulder. “Don’t you think the water down there is looking a little brown, Bill? It was blue a while ago.”
This observation went unheeded. Nor did I heed our projected course line, as depicted on the plotter screen right before my eyes, which was targeting the one and only shoal area in the whole dang bay. “Now there,” I went on, “is a set of ranges. You use them to stay in the channel when you’re coming in through the pass. That’s the pass way out there.”
What eventually happened was predictable. Despite yet another mention from Bob, as well as one from BJ, each questioning the iffiness of the surrounding waters, I kept right on chuggin’, eventually squishing the ol’ Betty Jane directly into the aforementioned shoal at a modest speed of seven knots. As you might expect, I momentarily considered explaining to Bob about the difference between a soft grounding and a hard one, but thankfully decided to skip it.
“Well,” I concluded at length, cellphone in hand, after trying to back free without success. “Guess I’ll call TowBoatUS.”
The TowBoat guy was fabulous. He communicated with us on his cellphone throughout the entire ensuing adventure. So, nobody in the neighborhood who was standing by on a VHF got wind of just how embarrassing—and dangerous—getting distracted at the helm can be. My reputation remained unsullied. Until now, of course.