Who Your Friends Are Says a Lot About the Kind of Boater You Are


My client and eventual friend Jim purchased a new Grand Banks 36 from me in the late ’90s. He’d planned his entry into the boating lifestyle for years. He’d joined boating clubs and organizations. He’d read all the coastal boating publications. He’d gone to boat shows. He’d lived his entire life in a landlocked state so he felt it was in his best interest to be loaded with as much coastal cruising knowledge as he could take onboard. 

After several rounds of negotiations Jim called my office and in his raspy, deep voice, fine-tuned by a two-packs-of-cigarettes-and-pint-of-whiskey-a-day habit, informed me, “If you want to sell me that damn boat, you need to be at my place before I have to take my wife to the airport at 7:30 in the morning.” 

I knocked on his door at 4:30 am. “What in the hell do you want?” was my morning greeting. 

“Wanted to make certain I was here on time, hope you have coffee ready,” I replied. We signed the contract and Jim had his new Grand Banks.

Two weeks latter his boat was ready for delivery, and not heeding my instructions for certified funds at the closing, he shows up with a blank personal check. “I certify the funds are there,” he said, pointing to his check. Oh Jim.

After we cleared this up, I joined him for his new-boat orientation. I wanted him to dock the boat himself while I instructed him. The current was ripping and after a couple attempts to back in, I suggested he go bow-in, which he successfully accomplished. All lines were secured, the shore power connected, and I was passing their little dog over the starboard rail for a potty run when we got T-boned on the port side by an out-of-control 37-foot sailboat. What a way to start out on a new boat. This was the first of many misadventures onboard Tenacious.

Jim and I would talk frequently. He and his wife became my dear friends, even though he was a pain in the ass! I was impressed with his tenacious attitude towards learning how to coastal cruise. He refused to be defeated, and his early dues to Sea Tow would pay off in spades as he learned about the tides along Florida’s West Coast.

A year or so later, one of Jim’s buddies joined him for a reunion onboard the Grand Banks. Jim, eager to impress his friend with his newly developed boating skills, hurriedly checks over the engine room and the sight tubes on the fuel tanks. Off these two go. Jim makes an impressive departure from the marina and is feeling rather smug. An hour or so into the cruise, Jim is telling tall tales of his boating experiences, impressing his buddy on how a redneck’s evolved into such a seasoned mariner. But the dialogue is cut short when both engines come to a grinding halt—the boat is enveloped in dead silence. Oh crap, those damn valves! He’d forgot to open the sight tube valves on the fuel tanks to level out the fuel. No fuel in the tanks! (There are two valves on each tube, one at the top and one at the bottom. For safety’s sake, I recommended to all my clients to keep these valves closed except when checking fuel-levels. Opening these valves allows the fuel levels in the tubes to reflect the level in the tanks. However, failing to check the levels by opening the valves will most definitely give false readings.) 

Jim hails on the VHF, “Sea Tow, Sea Tow, Sea Tow, this is motor vessel Tenacious.” 

“Well, good afternoon Jim, what can we do for you today?” the Sea Tow dispatcher responds almost immediately. 

“Friends of yours, Jim?” asks his buddy sitting beside him with a smirk. You gotta admire that kinda tenacity.