I recently had a birthday. And, in the midst of the well wishes and festive remarks percolating up, I discovered that now being 74 freakin’ years old is not as disconcerting as I’d imagined it was gonna be. But then again, there are drawbacks to devolving into the long-in-the-tooth set. For starters, extra care must be exercised when wading a stream with a flyrod in hand—my balance is not quite what it used to be, apparently, even with an assist from a top-notch wading staff. And then, there’s the stamina required to wash the Betty Jane II down during Florida’s blast furnace summers—it’s going downhill with such fervor that, just this morning, for the first time in my life, I contracted with a cleaning service to give Betty a bath every couple of weeks. And finally, there’s an issue that’s a tad more singular than the previous two and somewhat more personal, considering that it has to do with the continuance of my generally good health.
Let me describe an all-too-typical situation to give you an idea of what I’m getting at. Not long ago, after finishing up with all the preparatory stuff a yearly physical examination entails—the get-togethers with the phlebologist, the electro-cardio engineer and the radiologist—I found myself sitting in an examination room at my doctor’s office, experiencing the drafty effects of an exposed transom due to the opening at the rear of the flimsy gown I was wearing with little boats pictured on it. The walls of the room had boat pictures too, as well as a giant photo of my doctor and his family, all smiling to beat the band, seemingly during a sunny powercat charter in the Virgin Islands.
I twiddled my thumbs, anticipating the inevitable. Over the past few years, virtually all primary care physicians I’ve had anything to do with—and lots of docs I’ve met on the side—have turned out to be boat owners as well as readers of Power & Motoryacht. And every one of them has also turned out to be way more interested in talking to me about their latest cruise, exhaust elbow issue or stabilizer installation than getting into a deep medical discussion about my interior components.
Who knows why this is the case? Maybe it’s because I live in Florida, a state with relatively easy access to lots of doctors and lots of boaty water. Or maybe it’s because general practitioners, as a class, are a great deal more driven to go down to the sea in ships, pontoon boats, motoryachts and runabouts than the average Joe. Or maybe—and this is the possibility I think is most likely—it’s because I started working for this magazine more than three decades ago, and let’s face it—at some point in the career of just about anybody who’s had the same job for years and years, longevity tends to convince people, even highly educated ones, that a whiff or two of wisdom has wafted in from somewhere.
“Hi, Bill,” said my doctor when he finally breezed through the door with a great big smile on his sun-burned face, “sea trial any good boats lately?”
The conversation that ensued was, as I’ve already noted, inevitable. I synopsized the power, top speed, cruise speed and handling characteristics of my latest and greatest before getting into the interior walkthrough. The doc then made a few poignant observations. I added a few myself. Then, as if by magic, we were delving deeply into the profundities of a recalcitrant genset. Ultimately, of course, it was necessary to interrupt, to steer the conversation back to the matter at hand. After all, it was almost lunchtime.
“Hey, Doc,” I interjected. “So, what’s up with those test results of mine? Am I healthier than that genset of yours? I hope!”