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Plowing a Fallow Field

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I’ll never forget it. A few years ago I found myself on a borrowed center console with five people, some of the most knowledgeable boaters I knew. We had spent a full day exploring the sounds, channels, and backwaters of the North Carolina coast, swimming at anchor and topping off the day with a dockside dinner that wound up just around sunset.

On our way back to our home port for the night, the sun dropped and the light drained from the sky. Which was right about when we discovered that the boat was a bit underequipped, as was the crew, with nary a spotlight, or even a flashlight, onboard. We wended our way through darkened channels, navigating by starlight as the daymarkers sneaked up on us out of the gloom. 

Jason Y Wood

In frustration at one point, we turned as a group to a dimmed-but-still-too-bright chartplotter, only to watch in wonder as our boat made way up the screen, looking for all the world like a farm tractor plowing a field—she was showing up 100 yards to starboard of our actual location in the channel, high and dry. That’s when our crew’s collective knowledge showed itself to be the opposite of power and six hands simultaneously descended on the keypad of the display. Too many cooks …

I thought of this recently as I realized I’ll never be too old to learn a thing or two. In fact I think that may very well be the divide between young and old: the willingness to ask a question, keep the mind open, and put yourself in situations that require both. Now that I’m well into my, ahem, forties, I’ve noticed some of my previously sharp corners have become a bit radiused. My questions have evolved from the know-it-all delivery upon which the younger me relied, to become a bit more, shall we say, analytical.

This has happened more or less naturally, as I catch myself noting on a daily basis that there’s still plenty to learn. It’s the opposite of studying for tests (remember those?): Gaining real knowledge is as fulfilling in application as academic study is lacking.

Today my continuing education takes place in the best classroom I could have hoped for—the flying bridges, helms, engine rooms, and other onboard spots I find myself enjoying these days. And every time I set foot on a boat, I learn something new.

After all, that’s why Power & Motoryacht’s editors spend so much time on boats, so everything we can learn is imparted to you. Our antennae are up and we’re looking at the boat’s design and execution. We try to figure out how the boat does its job and hopefully you read about it, and watch our videos. And if you’re really interested maybe you’ll page through an online gallery where we try to show even more detail.

Another great thing about the boaters and industry folks I encounter in my travels: They seem to be naturally curious and generous with information, which makes for interesting conversations. Instead of telling you how much they know, many of these people instead delve into areas where they’re not expert. During any given boat test we’re likely to hear the question “So, working at a magazine … what’s that like?”

Answering questions. That’s pretty much what we’re trying to do to keep you serious boaters in the know. We try to come up with innovative ways to impart information, and maybe show you a thought process to get you from A to B on your own. As a student who attended our inaugural session of Power & Motoryacht University at the Newport International Boat Show e-mailed me: “I felt privileged to have one-on-one discussions with the presenters about my particular boating needs.” We see our events, as well as the magazine, our Web content and videos, and more, as a starting point for informative discussions. We’re planning another session of Power & Motoryacht University now. Keep an eye on these pages, or send me an e-mail at with the subject line PMYU if you’d like to receive updates.

And like our crew on the center console so long ago, maybe we’ll find our way out of the dark together. I’ll see you on the water.