Every year or so, the powers that be send Power & Motor-yacht newcomers south to spend a few days cruising with yours truly. For many years, transportation was provided by a Grand Banks trawler, the Betty Jane. Then three years ago, I swapped Betty for another trawler—a Cape Dory 28 Flybridge—named, with continuing adherence to marital priorities, the Betty Jane II.
While the official purpose of these jaunts remains a puzzle to me to this day, I’m not the type to turn down a boat ride to anywhere with anybody, especially when a generous, disembodied corporate entity is footing the bill for food, fuel and other attendant expenses. And besides, I always have oodles of fun, usually for the same three sneaky reasons.
The first is best. As soon as my guests come aboard, I instantaneously convert them into a wholly fresh, wholly captive audience for re-telling all my cherished sea stories. Tragically, over the years, I’ve virtually worn out my wife, all my relatives and most of my friends with these babies, to such a pitiful extent, I must admit, that I can rarely trot ‘em out around the ranchero anymore, or even around my marina.
“Oh,” said newly hired Executive Editor Jeff Moser, at the start of the most recent extravaganza, a jaunt from Jacksonville to St. Augustine and back, “I didn’t know you used to work on ships, Bill.”
The remark, as you might guess, was music to my ears. It was, in fact, the perfect setup for an entire day’s worth of tales featuring Great Lakes ore carriers, pilot boats, offshore supply vessels, oceangoing tugs and, last but not least, me.
“Yeah, Jeff,” I replied with deep appreciation, “I spent a dozen years on the commercial side. Got out of the maritime academy about 1979, as I recall. Had a real good friend by the name of J.B. Collings and he and I …”
The second big reason I so enjoy my periodic cruises with Power & Motor-yacht newcomers is the deeds of derring-do I get to shamelessly orchestrate. It’s no secret, of course, that I favor older, single-inboard boats and, while my guests and I cruise our nation’s waterways, I typically interject this fact into our conversations while explaining how my prejudice against bow thrusters (when coupled with the single-inboard thing) produces maneuvering challenges in and around marinas seldom seen since the Napoleonic days of Admiral Horatio Nelson.
“This is gonna be tricky, tricky, tricky,” I observed while studying from afar the powerful tidal currents ripping through St. Augustine Municipal Marina, the stopover spot for the most recent trip. I sat on Betty’s flybridge at the time, with Associate Editor Krista Karlson—the newest addition to the team—on one side and Jeff on the other. The atmosphere was tense. Would Capt. Bill be able to safely back into a slip under such dire circumstances? With ripping currents?
“Well, here goes,” I finally announced, doing, I thought, a decent paraphrase of Nelson signaling the attack on the Franco-Spanish fleet at Cádiz in 1805. Betty purred into battle, obviously enjoying herself as much as I was.
The third and final reason for me having so much fun initiating newcomers is even more devious and self-serving than the previous two. Just about always, as part of the deal, I get to take aboard several brand-new marine products destined for testing. And while I’m never directly responsible for this stuff, I routinely get to try it out, often with a vengeance.
“Guess we’d better take this back to the boat,” said Krista one afternoon, after we’d finished experimenting with a sporty little fold-up electric Jupiter Bike on the shady streets of St. Augustine. The thing had way more power and speed than I’d expected—it was fast. And freakin’ FURIOUS!
“Unless,” Krista added, giving me a knowing look, “you’d like to ride it around some more, Capt. Bill.”
“I’ll be back around dinner time,” I promised my crew, just before zooming off into the sunset, “and guys … welcome aboard.”