Two weeks before the start of our team cruise to Cumberland Island, Georgia last summer, I started to really think about things, an activity that descends upon me well before the start of virtually all nautical jaunts. This particular form of mental exercise, however, does not typically project a happy state of affairs. Instead it sends demonic vibes and visions fibrillating through the ol’ cerebellum, divesting it of every last drop of peace and contentment, even if the weather forecast looks good and the Betty Jane II is in a state of total readiness.
What cranked up the psychosis this time around? Well, I was innocently counting on my fingers one morning—one, two, three, (you guessed it) four—while mumbling to myself, when a big-time problematic potential hit me like a ton of smelly deck shoes.
“Shoot,” I mumbled, “there’s gonna be four guys—four guys!—on board the Betty Jane II for this Cumberland cruise. That’s a LOT of guys, given Betty’s humble 28-foot LOA and her svelte 10-foot beam. And then there’s the time factor—we’re all gonna be together for dang near a week, cheek by jowl. CHEEK BY JOWL!”
With nothing better to do, my mind’s eye then slyly launched a solemn pair of seriously instructive, thinking-man-type movies starting with The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. You know, with Humphrey Bogart. Then came William Friedkin’s Sorcerer with Roy Scheider. Both are basically the same sort of flick: bunches of disparate, mission-oriented guys get crammed together for longish periods by necessity and circumstance and eventually get crazed by pressure--cooker stress and go completely nuts. Total mayhem ensues.
Of course, my cinematic diversions soon helped me envision numerous ways the Cumberland deal would play out. One of the darkest of the lot started with Digital Director John Turner, who recalls every word of every rock-and-roll tune ever performed on the planet. He’d be warbling a few obscure phrases of a Springsteen number in Betty’s cockpit. Then, Managing Editor Simon Murray would suggest a modest correction based upon his deep familiarity with contemporary poetics. An argument would break out and quickly escalate. Insults would be hurled. Loud ones. So loud that Editor-In-Chief Dan Harding, grown irascible due to a slew of sleepless nights spent in one of Betty’s narrow, foreshortened berths, would lunge from an erstwhile nap into the melee and let fly with a deck chair, while I, sniffing the unmistakable vibe of Lord of the Flies, would take a howling, frenzied leap over the side.
But hey, here’s the deal, predictably enough. Absolutely nothing—nada—even remotely akin to my mad fantasies actually transpired. Instead, just about everything that took place during our excursion to Cumberland Island turned out to be wholly benign. Indeed, a delightful little interlude that rather magically materialized on the final afternoon of the trip pretty much summed up the generally genial nature of the entire extravaganza, start to finish.
Said interlude occurred at Betty’s lower helm station with Simon at the wheel, steering an arrow-straight course up a summery, sun-sparkled St. Johns River. Dan, John and I were standing behind him when, for some who-cares reason, all four of us simultaneously broke into a heartily unified, full-throated rendition of Don McLean’s “American Pie,” with my new Clarion stereo system joining in, at full, sock-knockin’ volume, rattling windows all the way to Atlanta. A wonderful experience? Yup, truly.
Which brings me at last—rather circuitously, I must admit—to the New Year’s resolution I made just a month or so ago. Given the obvious lack of correspondence between what I think is going to happen on any given cruising excursion and what is likely to actually happen, I am henceforth gonna try to cut back on my tendency to really think about anything. Unless, of course, I find myself in serious need of comic relief.