Power & Motor Yacht - - IN THIS ISSUE - By Capt. Bill Pike

Putting a new boat—and a new editor—to the test.

Ilike to look good. If you stop by my North Florida ranchero most any time, I’ll want you to think good thoughts about me, like, “Wow, this guy’s got a hel­luva spread here. And look at that shop he has out back—all those tools hung up neatly on a giant peg­board. He must re­ally know what he’s do­ing.”

The syn­drome gets worse when it comes to boats. If you stop by the ol’ Betty Jane II most any time, I’ll not only want you to think good thoughts about me, I’ll want you to think great thoughts, like, “Wow, this guy’s got a hel­luva stun­ningly beau­ti­ful, spec­tac­u­larly main­tained, vir­tu­ally per­fect boat here. And look at that 240-horse­power Yan­mar 4LHA-STP down in the ma­chin­ery space. Sel­dom is such clean­li­ness and or­der seen any­where in the world to­day. He must re­ally know what he’s do­ing.”

Of course, there’s noth­ing ter­ri­bly wrong with this sort of thing, I guess. After all, once you strug­gle into my par­tic­u­lar age bracket, peo­ple oughta cut you some slack, right? But then again, it is pos­si­ble to get a lit­tle over-in­volved egoically now and then, par­tic­u­larly when a bunch of your boat’s com­po­nent parts start flub­bing up, day after day. Take what hap­pened re­cently, for ex­am­ple.

The plan was sim­ple enough. Our new manag­ing editor, Simon Mur­ray, would fly down to Jack­sonville, Florida, to spend three days cruis­ing up the St. Johns River with me. Dur­ing that time, I’d help him tweak his nau­ti­cal skills and get to know him bet­ter. Cool?

Yeah, but there was a fly in the trans­mis­sion oil. Betty, a 30-yearold ves­sel I’d only re­cently pur­chased and be­gun to re­ha­bil­i­tate, was not quite cruise-wor­thy. More to the point, the rather up­roar­i­ous re­place­ment of her en­tire san­i­tary sys­tem, fol­lowed by a new fresh­wa­ter in­stall that was in­com­plete, had se­ri­ously de­graded her amenity quo­tient. And hey, it was Fe­bru­ary in North Florida—tem­per­a­tures at night were dip­ping into the low 30s. With my new, re­verse-cy­cle Aqua-Air AC re­place­ment unit still in its ship­ping crate and the old unit gone, there was ab­so­lutely no heat on board.

“Think of this thing as a camp­ing trip,” I told Simon be­fore he left Con­necti­cut for the so-called Sun­shine State. “Of the win­ter type.”

Call­ing our ex­cur­sion an ex­tended sea trial would have been more ac­cu­rate. On top of a raft of fresh­wa­ter hangups (in­clud­ing a pair of edgy, an­ti­quated faucets and the pos­si­bil­ity that leaks would hiss all over the place if I was ever able to en­er­gize the water pump), vir­tu­ally every­thing on board was un­tried, at least in terms of long-haul trav­els. I’d never put the en­gine through her paces for any length of time, or the elec­tron­ics, or the gal­ley ap­pli­ances.

“Yeah, I love Cracker Bar­rel,” said Simon shortly after I’d picked him up at Jack­sonville In­ter­na­tional that first evening. The fact that the young fel­low was into one of my gas­tro­nom­i­cal fa­vorites, I told my­self, boded well. He seemed agree­able. Maybe he’d be un­fazed by frosty temps, leaky faucets, and ut­ter chaos.

We spent the first night dock­side in Jack­sonville. Con­di­tions were frigid. While Simon took a hot shower in the shore­side fa­cil­i­ties the next morn­ing, I tried to crank

Betty’s Yan­mar. But dang—the lit­tle jewel wouldn’t start. “En­gine is­sue,” I ex­plained when Simon got back. We stood there, on the edge of the en­gine-room maw, watch­ing a tal­ented boatyard me­chanic named Chip jury-rig a pro­vi­sional fix for an elec­tri­cal har­ness. I felt em­bar­rassed— Betty was mis­be­hav­ing.

Chip even­tu­ally got the Yan­mar go­ing but de­vel­op­ments con­tin­ued to go down hill. In­deed, as Simon and I pressed on, from that morn­ing for­ward, prob­lem after prob­lem ob­truded. For starters, I couldn’t get a pre-de­par­ture ra­dio check on ei­ther VHF. The is­sue, it turned out, was a bro­ken an­tenna ca­ble which gen­er­ated a three-hour de­lay, com­plete with two trips to West Marine. Then later, well after we’d hit the trail, the Yan­mar be­gan leak­ing fuel from some mys­te­ri­ous lo­ca­tion—not lots, but just enough to re­quire pe­ri­odic en­gine pan mop-ups and in­fuse our evenings with the fra­grance of Eau de Diesel. Then, on the fol­low­ing day (after a truly hum­bling dock­ing ex­trav­a­ganza), my newly hatched fresh­wa­ter pump de­cided to run cease­lessly, an is­sue that took a cou­ple of hours to fix. And then fi­nally, it got cold—I mean, COLD!

But here’s the deal. As the mini-catas­tro­phes con­tin­ued to catas­tro­phize and I con­tin­ued to feel bad about them, my buddy Simon kept right on chug­gin’, ex­hibit­ing a level of sturdy, can-do ac­cep­tance and un­der­stand­ing that is rare in a ship­mate.

“I re­ally en­joyed my­self,” he said as we parted com­pany at Jack­sonville In­ter­na­tional at trip’s end. And to the greater glory of my pesky lit­tle ol’ ego, I think he gen­uinely meant it.

You’ve heard the skip­per’s tale, now hear Simon’s ver­sion on page 56.

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