Skip to main content

Capt. Bill Pike long imagined “semi-retirement,” would free him up to do nothing but boat. But life sometimes intervenes.

Ahhhhh, retirement. Or, in my case, semi-retirement. During most of my working life, I saw it—even romanticized it—as an era of unbridled, virtually unrestricted freedom, a golden age of well-earned bliss, out there on the horizon, where trusty marine diesels thrum and bow waves chuckle, day after day, week after week, year after year, pretty much forever. No real job anymore, you understand. No pestiferous alarm clocks. No need to depart the marine scene early on Sunday because of a quarterly planning meeting—or some other deplorably compulsory event—that looms large the next morning, complete with a preparatory midnight oil conflagration.

Champ wants to go boating art

But here’s the deal, dear reader. If you’re still gainfully employed (more’s the pity) and dreaming dreams of free form, perpetual boating so you can continue to cope with middle-aged middle management or, heaven forbid, the vicissitudes of late stage backburnerism, the fantasy I’ve just so glowingly outlined is, well, sorta just that: a fantasy. Take it from a guy with six whole months of solid, hard-core semi-retirement bobbing in his wake.

Last Thursday is a perfect illustration of the phenomenon—it was a day that was supposed to offer my beloved Betty Jane II and I, in keeping with my best-laid plans, many mellifluous hours of togetherness. It began, as usual, with an affable wake up from my golden retriever Champ who slaps me briskly in the face with his fluffy tail, whop, whop, whop. The Champster, unbeknownst to me during my working-stiff days, arises at zero dark thirty every morning without benefit of a chronometer and expects breakfast to be served with immediate speed and precision. It’s a small thing, really—what the heck!

So, while my wife BJ caught a few extra winks, Champy and I headed for the kitchen where I flicked on the lights or, rather, tried to flick on the lights. But hey, nothing happened—nada. Uh oh, I told myself, I’m looking at “an electrical issue,” which is what I call problems that arise involving wiring, switches and other high-voltage aspects of my doddering, antiquated ranchero. Before visiting the breaker box or retrieving a single screwdriver, I tracked down Champ’s big bag of dog food in the shadows, decanted it accurately, and then served it to the old boy with a smile. A matter of priorities, of course.

A series of odd jobs soon materialized as BJ joined our merry band. First came a post-prandial walk, with Champ in the lead, followed up by a long garden-hose washdown necessitated by a thankfully uncommon, nether-related event too gruesome to go into here. Then, after wolfing a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich breakfast, sluiced down with two cups of hot, black coffee (to keep up my strength), I zipped over to the hardware store for a new switch, a bag of twist-on connectors and some extra wire. The resolution of the electrical issue that ensued lingered on until half past noon, believe it or not, due to some tricky, time-consuming design differences between the old and new switches.

“Did you say you were going to mow the lawn today?” BJ asked. Still enmeshed in the workforce, she was telephoning from her office, as I downed another PB&J for lunch and wondered if my boating plans could somehow be resurrected. “The Weather Channel says it’s gonna rain for the rest of the week.”

The lawn surrounding the ranchero is large. And The Weather Channel—let’s face it—is usually sometimes right. But I did manage to finish mowing by 5 o’clock that afternoon. And I also managed to do something else. With Champy chomping encouragingly on my pantlegs, I resolved to make it to the marina the following morning, come hell or high water. After all, the fantasy of having virtually unrestricted freedom to go boating during one’s retirement or semi-retirement is not, in my opinion, totally bogus. It can be coaxed into reality now and again, with a little help from one’s friends.

“Woof,” Champy applauded, when he heard the news.

This article originally appeared in the November 2022 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.