UN­CHARTED WATERS

EX­CUSE ME, BUT WHAT ABOUT A LIT­TLE CHAT?

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

What dreams may come ... of boats.

Ya see, Doc, I’ve got this dream. And the point of it, I sup­pose, is to some­how re­ex­pe­ri­ence what, look­ing back, seems like a truly won­der­ful part of my life. You know, the part I spent trav­el­ing long, empty-ocean dis­tances on boats.

Oh, I know. I know. You can’t go home again. You can’t re­cap­ture the past. Or at least that’s what ev­ery­body says. But hu­mor me, Doc. Let me give you at least a faint idea of what it was like, out there, on those ex­tended voy­ages into the wild blue yon­der. Maybe it’ll help.

First off, I should tell you about an old guy named Jack, a glo­be­trot­ting, su­per­tanker skip­per turned Great Lakes pi­lot. Back in the day, Jack and I spent a good bit of time to­gether shep­herd­ing ships across Lake Su­pe­rior for a wild lit­tle out­fit called the Great Lakes Pilots As­so­ci­a­tion. And one peace­ful night, some­where north­west of Cop­per Har­bor, while we both stood in the red­dish glow of a chart ta­ble on board a frowzy Turk­ish freighter, Jack made an ab­so­lutely sin­gu­lar ob­ser­va­tion.

“You know, I love this stuff—I’ve loved it all my life,” he said, ges­tur­ing with a pair of di­viders in a way that meant he was talk­ing about all of sea­far­ing, not just charts and chart tables. “But do you know the best part?”

“No,” I replied, watch­ing the old boy ex­pertly step off the mileage to our next haul­ing point with the di­viders.

“Think about it,” he said, toss­ing the di­viders onto the chart, “At this very mo­ment pretty much ev­ery­body who’s im­por­tant to you and me knows where we are and what we’re do­ing—but then again they don’t!”

It took sev­eral more years of bop­ping around the high seas— venue swap­ping from the lakes to the Gulf of Mex­ico and then the oceans of the world—be­fore I re­ally un­der­stood what Jack had been get­ting at. For a while, I fig­ured he’d merely been ac­knowl­edg­ing the way blue­wa­ter voy­ag­ing sets you free from the en­tan­gle­ments and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of life ashore, at least tem­po­rar­ily. But then one morn­ing much fur­ther down the line, while de­part­ing Trinidad at the helm of a 200-foot oil­field sup­ply boat, with the at­trac­tive prospect of days and days of open ocean travel ahead, I fi­nally re­al­ized— what Jack had been say­ing was that sea­far­ing is so dif­fer­ent, of­ten so as­ton­ish­ingly dif­fer­ent, from shore­side life that those who don’t live and breathe it will never truly know its beau­ties and en­chant­ments.

I con­tin­ued my own sea­far­ing ca­reer well be­yond that trip to Trinidad. And as time ticked by I both en­joyed—and was oc­ca­sion­ally ter­ror­ized by—hun­dreds of hap­pen­ings that still play like movies in my mind to­day. Stuff like de­liv­er­ing Amer­i­can-built pa­trol boats to Panama—and col­lect­ing gi­ant rolls of cash from guys in dark suits and re­flec­tor sun­glasses. And deal­ing with out­ra­geous storms on board old ocean­go­ing tugs like the

Sara Hayes and the Betty Wood. And watch­ing lit­er­ally thou­sands of bot­tlenose dol­phins play the Hum­boldt Cur­rent off the coast of Peru, many of them shoot­ing out of the big rollers like joy­ful rock­ets. But yeah, okay, the dream? Last sum­mer, I bought a com­par­a­tively small, 30-year-old pocket cruiser, mostly be­cause I love her clas­si­cal good looks. And although the boat has ad­di­tional virtues, like a prac­ti­cally new Awl­craft paint job and a prac­ti­cally new Yan­mar diesel, I was fully aware when I pur­chased her that she needed a good bit of up­grad­ing, par­tic­u­larly in light of the very spe­cial plan—the very spe­cial dream—I had in mind for her.

The idea, you see, is to do a trip like I used to in the old days. Only this time, I’ll be trav­el­ing from the Florida coast to the Ba­hamas or, more par­tic­u­larly, to Hopetown in the Aba­cos, a des­ti­na­tion that, for some rea­son, in­spires me to­day just as much as places like Port More­seby, New Guinea, and Antofa­gasta, Chile, used to way back when. And, of course, to safely ac­tu­al­ize such a jaunt, a very re­li­able boat is called for, a boat that, while old, must be ren­dered en­tirely new in terms of sys­tems.

So Doc, is it any won­der we’re talk­ing a se­ri­ous re­fit here, with new electrics, wa­ter, san­i­ta­tion, me­chan­i­cals … you name it? And is it any won­der that so much work is re­quired—along with so much money and so much time spent away from home—that my wife is mak­ing un­set­tling pro­nounce­ments these days like: “You’re ob­sessed, ob­sessed! You need to see a psy­chi­a­trist. I mean it!”

Oh sure. Sure. I get your drift. Flow­ers? Yeah, okay. Hit a few long-ne­glected chores around the ranchero? Maybe a nice ro­man­tic din­ner for two some place? Cer­tainly. But I’m not crazy, eh Doc? I mean like crazy-crazy, right? Oh! Shoot! Re­ally. Huh! Re­ally?

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