Thanks to his unbridled enthusiasm and a little Gatorade, a potential boat owner gets the thumbs-up during last summer’s heat wave.
It was mid-July and “scorcher” was the word most reasonable people were applying to North Florida’s overheated meteorology. Afternoon temps in the open were routinely pushing 100 degrees and it was almost as toasty in the shade. At my marina, the guys in the yard were laying low at the behest of management. “We’re tellin’ everybody to stay out of the sun as much as possible,” the dockmaster had explained when I’d talked with him earlier in the week. “It’s just too darned hot.”
Oddly enough, though, not every North Floridian at the time was hunting air-conditioned comfort or trying to shimmy into a sliver of shadowy shade. My buddy Paul was a prime example. He was struggling with an altogether different sort of heat-related condition, a thing often referred to at least by those of us in the know- as “Boat Fever.” And because of the depth of his desire to buy a new boat—preferably one that would replicate the charms of my beloved Betty Jane II—he was intent on taking Betty for a cruise despite the fact that her onboard ambiance was likely to approximate the interior of a blast furnace.
Since he was a stranger to trawlers and other “big boats,” as he put it, Paul came prepared for the extravaganza with a reassuring addendum—a giant, broad-brimmed straw hat that made him look like a sweaty version of Buffalo Bill. I came prepared with grim forebodings. After all, I love boats, and I love to see other people love boats or begin to love boats. And frankly, I was afraid the sweltering conditions, when directly experienced, would lessen Paul’s newfound enthusiasm, perhaps to the point of extinction.
At any rate, off we finally went, outfitted with a cooler filled with a bag of ice, a dozen bottles of Gatorade, several bottles of water and, to maintain our strength and navigational clear-headedness, two ham-and-Swiss-cheese sandwiches. And because Betty spends most of her time “undercover,” meaning she resides beneath a huge, canopy-like roof that is supported by oodles of pilings that delineate the slips and docks beneath, our departure, which I facilitated from the flying bridge, took us quite briskly from comparative shade into an almost blinding encounter with the sun. And trust me, the transition was a shocker.
“Wow,” said Paul, turning to me in amazement, tapping the wide flat brim of his hat for emphasis. “You were right, man. It’s HOT out here!”
“Drink this,” I said, handing over a condensation-dripping bottle of Gatorade—the “Cool Blue” flavor, I believe. Then I suggested that, once we were well beyond our slip and out of maneuvering range, we retire to the lower helm station where we’d find shade and maybe a zephyr or two wafting through the open windows. Tragically, I went on to explain while opening a condensation-dripping bottle of my own, that because it ran on shore power only, the air-conditioning system that had purred while we were plugged in dockside, would not be purring while we frolicked upon the high seas.
Gurgle. Gurgle. Gurgle.
I’m not quite sure how to characterize the next few, heat-buzzed hours, although what comes most immediately to mind is one of those especially dry, desolate scenes from Lawrence of Arabia where the horizon shows up as a fine, wavering line, everybody looks barbecued and even the camels appear to be thirsty. Maybe we cruised up the river toward the Naval Air Station to watch the jets do their thing but, beyond that, I’m not totally sure what went on. Indeed, the only two things I am truly sure of is that, at one point, Paul asked if I really thought he should buy a boat of his own and, at another point, we ran out of—you guessed it—Gatorade!
“Sorry, Paul,” I said when confronted with the enormity of this lapse. “We’ll get more when we get back.”
“No prob, Bill,” he replied, tipping his hat back. “I just love bein’ out here on the water.”
“Paul,” I opined with a long, shrewd, side-eye appraisal. “If there’s anybody in this whole sizzling world who should get a boat of his own—it’s you, brother. No freakin’ doubt about it.”