Here’s the problem or, should I say, problems—the finger pier alongside the Betty Jane II is just about wide enough to accommodate a skinny, pigeon-toed, sure-footed dachshund. And, unless there is an especially high tide, the drop to Betty’s cockpit from said -finger pier is considerable, like somewhere between 4 and 6 feet, a -circumstance that can turn the act of coming aboard into a lunge of abandon. Indeed, almost everybody, even friends from neighboring slips, are loathe to make the leap and generally refuse, -citing safety reasons, balance issues and/or the trials of acrophobia. My wife, I must admit, is right in there with ‘em.
“No,” is the typical response when I invite her aboard. “I am not going out there on that thing. Why don’t we have floating docks?”
Push, of course, always comes to shove. For nearly four years now, I’ve rationalized the status quo by telling myself and everybody else that Betty simply has to be in a good boatyard due to her ongoing restoration, an extravaganza that’s demanded periodic haul outs, the presence of reliable, highly skilled technicians and a slip with a roof under which paint, varnish and other substances can serenely cure or dry. But now that the restoration’s complete—or as near complete as any restoration gets—there’s no excuse. Betty has to go to a marina where wide, easy-walkin’ finger piers abound, along with floating docks and all the other marinized necessities and niceties that decorate the 21st century.
But here’s the rub. While I’ve already found such a marina and made the necessary arrangements, I am currently banging my head (and my heart) against a sad truth—movin’ on essentially means, well, movin’ on! And departing a boatyard that’s become a veritable second home is going to involve leaving a whole community of fabulous friends behind. And hey, from the owner of the yard, to the guys who work there, to the ladies who staff the office, to all the cheery slip mates I’ve had so much fun with over the years, the list is long and, believe it or not, intimidating.
Yup, I do not like saying goodbye. To anybody, even if there’s a chance that I might, somehow, in some way, see them again at some far-off juncture. Why this is so, I’m really not sure. But maybe the phenomenon has something to do with my tendency to remember with great appreciation all the small kindnesses that people do.
Consider, for example, the afternoon I was backing Betty into her slip for the first time at the yard’s little marina and Jerry -simply materialized dockside as if by magic. “Need some help?” he calmly asked while balancing on the finger pier. I did!
Or the evening I inadvertently stumbled against the old fire-extinguisher in Betty’s super-heated engine room, thereby triggering an explosion of fire suppressant just as Patty walked past. “Bill!” she yelled, as a giant cloud whooshed through the salon into the cockpit. “Are you alright?” Although the only hardship I suffered as a result was a wintry blast to the nether regions, Patty’s obvious concern was, in a word, heartwarming.
And then, there was the morning Betty’s engine flat-out refused to crank, a development that was hyper-problematic considering that a couple of Power & Motoryacht editors were standing by, having traveled great distances to spend a few days cruising the St. Johns River. “There,” said Chip, the wise old man of the yard, after he’d hastily rigged a “jumper” in a wiring harness. “Try it now.” Vrooom went the Yanmar.
Of course, I could go on and on with these little vignettes. But really, there’s little sense in postponing the inevitable. Saying goodbye—and thanks—to everybody is gonna be hard, maybe even painful. But I figure it’ll be worth it. A guy’s gotta respect his friends, right? And some of ‘em may even pay me a visit someday—who knows. At my new marina. With floating docks.