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Distant Shores

“It’s only an island if you look at it from the water.”
—Chief Martin Brody, Jaws


There’s something to be said for surrounding yourself with water for as far as the eye can see. Most of you know what I’m talking about. The physical separation of getting out, getting away, and changing your perspective is a big part of the sea’s allure.

Today the default setting for many of us is to be constantly, inexorably in touch. The benefits of steady contact are obvious: If you need help, it’s just a call away. Perhaps less apparent but more important is knowing that we occasionally need to shut off the white noise of mobile telephones and e-mail and engage in the here and now more completely. The water is one of those buffers that we’re looking for in everyday life, and boats offer a way to get away. Hopefully it helps us open different parts of our minds and reboot the system.

That was my goal when I went away for a long weekend this summer with my wife and friends to do a bit of fishing and unwind. When we got to Nantucket—and it’s not that far really, just over the horizon—we began to realize the differences from our daily lives the minute we drove away from the ferry dock. Sounds silly to say, but bumping along country roads through scrubby, overgrown pastures in the island’s interior, I felt like we were a world away from the manicured lawns of Cape Cod.

It’s little things that shift the lens of your perception. As with optics, small changes can make a big difference. (Don’t believe me? Try swapping eyeglasses with a friend.) When things aren’t going right, I like to think I can see the need to shift gears. And even if everything is going right, a change of scenery lets you see the whole deal from a different angle. Getting on boats and spending time on the water is the best way to change it up—to leave the puzzle alone for a while. And when you come back to the puzzle, the pieces seem to go together a little more simply, chiefly because you’re not ramming them into each other in the same old way.

One of my favorite ways to do that is fishing. There’s something innately satisfying about the muscle memory of tying certain knots or the deep remembering required to recall a specific one and execute it—sometimes with a friend looking on a little too closely. And the excitement of the strike is a feeling without compare.

Taking to the water is a singular solution because it can create challenges that you can’t ignore. As with any sport, your commitment level determines what you get out of it. A golfer hits into the woods, shakes his head, and tees up another ball. To mix a metaphor, I think it’s better to play the hand I’m dealt. Also, it’s much more fun: A friend’s balky outboard motor threatened to squelch a fishing expedition to Point Rip and beyond to Sankaty. Helping to fix the engine with plenty of time to spare made my day. Of course, we missed the meat of the tide, but sometimes that’s how it goes.

The timing can be off. These escapes rarely coincide with ideal conditions. As we fished, a curtain of impenetrable fog dropped into place 50 feet off the bow. We got underway at reduced speed, and I took regular glances at the radar display while dialing in the range we needed on the monochromatic chartplotter screen. As we came to the harbor approach, my friend throttled back as I pointed at a moving target on the radar. Out of the mist, a huge, dark-green-hulled Burger motoryacht materialized, gliding into the channel before us. We followed Sea Owl past Brant Point into Nantucket Harbor. As we peeled off toward our mooring, we laughed about what we must have looked like on the Burger’s state-of-the-art radar—buzzing right at them with no sign of changing course.

It’s all in the point of view.

This article originally appeared in the September 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.