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I Come in Peace

The incident was as predictable as a sunrise. I idled through the shallow Cayo Costa anchorage—a sliver of paradise off Florida’s west coast—looking for a spot to set the hook for the night. Slowly the “crows” rustled from their sailboat cockpits, stirred by the noise of the intruder. They appeared pissed off. 

“Wait for it. Wait,” I instructed my wife. “There! He’s making the move.” The “crow” sprung from his cockpit and flew to his perch on the bow of a Ted Brewer-designed Morgan 38. This was followed by my favorite move; ahh, the stretching of the bitch wings—a term my friend Peter Swanson shared with me to describe the pageantry of firmly planting one’s hands on the hips, and then just staring while looking distraught and angry. 

Our anchoring routine is dialed in. I operate the windlass on the bow, my wife is at the helm, and we silently use hand signals to complete the task. Yet the bitch wings still flew in all their glory 200 yards away. I threw them a wave and a smile—a gesture that agitated the crow on the bow even more. He clucked something then strutted back to the cockpit, bobbing his head.

Man, I don’t get it. There appears to be increasingly deep resentment from some of my sailing brethren towards the powerboating clan. Heck, I think I make an ideal neighbor out here. I rarely operate a generator at night, except in places like the Virgin Islands in August. In that case, I search to find a downwind spot far away from every other boat. I don’t want to disturb the anchorage (or stir any bitterness as my windows begin to fog over from the chill within).

You won’t hear any loud music blaring from the cockpit speakers, either. I feel strongly that my music choices should not be yours. I care about the marine environment and discharge directly into the holding tank at all times.

I know enough about anchoring that I’m confident I will have done everything humanly possible not to drag down on you. I set an anchor alarm, and if it’s blowing, I’m up several times a night to review the situation. If it’s really howling, I’ll post an anchor watch. 

I’m the guy who calls you on the VHF asking to overtake you on your port side if you would pull back a little so I’ll leave a minimal wake. Yet you ignore me.

I should confess that I started sailing long before taking to powerboats, and to this day, enjoy bluewater adventures on a sailboat more than any other boating endeavor. I also think the best thing we can do to nurture future boaters—power and sail—is to send kids to sailing camps at a young age.

So, these masses of perturbed sailors staring me down at every bend kind of stings. Just because powerboaters don’t need the wind to move to the next port doesn’t mean we are a thick and challenged breed. Trust me. Consider this a proverbial handshake and offer of friendship. I encourage you to clip your wings and come talk to a powerboater. Come borrow a bucketful of the abundant, perfectly squared ice that falls from the ice maker. Need a nice, hot shower or some water from the watermaker? Not a problem. Are you tired of using the same towel for more than a month? It only takes about 90 minutes to complete a load of laundry onboard.

Like everything in today’s world, the bad behavior of a few seems to fuel the stereotypes. For instance, I worked briefly for a boat dealer in Naples, Florida, and the running joke along the docks was that a sailor comes to Florida with a five-dollar bill and one shirt and doesn’t change either one of them. Just as sailors are viewed as cheap, I’m sure powerboaters are viewed as obnoxious, ego-driven pinheads. Both categorizations are way off base. 

So why don’t we all get along and remember that no matter what type of craft we’re on, the common denominator we all share is a love for being on the water with friends and family. Isn’t that something we can all agree on? And to my sailing friends, I’ll be cruising up the East Coast this spring, so please save the energy and put down those bitch wings. I come in peace. See you on the water.