Un­charted Wa­ters

Thanks to lots of worry and a lit­tle com­mon sense, the Betty Jane II’s first big-time cruise goes smoother than a wild horse’s nose.

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

A lit­tle luck, a lot of worry and a few wild horses make the Betty Jane II’s first of­fi­cial cruise a stel­lar suc­cess.

Wow! Power & Mo­to­ry­acht’s re­cent jaunt to Cum­ber­land Is­land, a gor­geous, 18-mile-long stretch of sand, saw­grass and an­cient live oaks on Ge­or­gia’s south­east­ern coast, came off with­out a hitch. Not only did the Betty Jane II make the jour­ney north from Jacksonville and back with nary an en­gine-re­lated hic­cup, but all her aux­il­iary sys­tems worked like a charm as well. Which blows me out the wa­ter, to be truth­ful, given that ev­ery one of th­ese sys­tems was vir­tu­ally brand-new at the time of the jaunt and for the most part un­tried in terms of the long haul. I can tell you this in good con­science be­cause I’m the guy who in­stalled most of the lot.

Oh yeah, I’m brag­gin’ here. For­give me. But, be­yond brag­ging, I’m also at­tempt­ing to con­vey how grate­ful I am for the luck we had. I mean, so many things could have gone wrong but didn’t.

Lemme fill you in on the three big­gest things I wor­ried about as the four-day ex­trav­a­ganza un­folded. First, there was the fuel is­sue—the diesel in Betty’s tanks was darn near old enough to vote. So, as we purred along, I kept fret­ful tabs on the pitch of Betty’s en­gine, with cat-and-mouse in­ten­sity, ready to im­me­di­ately pull ’er back should the stalwart Yan­mar start to fal­ter or fade, a hap­pen­ing that would have ne­ces­si­tated drop­ping the hook for a long, time­con­sum­ing pe­riod while we in­stalled a fresh fuel fil­ter el­e­ment.

Then there was the new Aqua-Air re­verse-cy­cle air con­di­tioner—while half of my mind tried to snooze af­ter lights-out in the evenings, the other half was con­tin­u­ally be­dev­iled by the no­tion that I should pay a highly dis­rup­tive visit to the en­gine room “just to check on things,” as I told my­self. Ques­tions ham­mered me. Did that oc­ca­sional, be­lowdecks rum­ble some­how spell the demise of my ex­pen­sive new AC sys­tem? Was the sea­wa­ter pump whoosh­ing too long? Was that mo­men­tary whine the im­peller suf­fer­ing a lugubri­ous, whirring melt­down? And what about all that gear stowed in the salon? Could it even­tu­ally nix air flow on the re­turn side and cause a freeze-up? Yikes!

Then fi­nally, there were the ter­rors hov­er­ing over Betty’s fresh-asa-daisy san­i­tary sys­tem—would all the new com­po­nents stand the strain of four guys on board for four days? Or would Betty and I be tossed into the teeth of ex­is­ten­tial de­spair by stinky leaks? Un­set­tling block­ages? And maybe even a to­tal, cat­a­strophic break­down? With all the at­ten­dant hor­rors I’ve come to ex­pect over the years, due to an es­pe­cially twisted form of karma that so of­ten teaches me its hoary lessons via plumbing is­sues of an unimag­in­ably grue­some na­ture.

Of course, wor­ry­ing about po­ten­tial trou­bles is pretty much par for the course for any good skip­per. Af­ter all, the need to an­tic­i­pate prob­lems and so­lu­tions well ahead of time is not just the bane of a good skip­per’s ex­is­tence, it’s also his re­spon­si­bil­ity. But there’s yet an­other fac­tor that’s at least par­tially re­spon­si­ble for the good for­tune we ex­pe­ri­enced dur­ing our lit­tle voy­age. I can syn­op­size it in just four words: Don’t do any­thin’ stupid!

A mod­est ex­am­ple. Not long af­ter ar­riv­ing on Cum­ber­land Is­land, we came across a herd of the is­land’s fa­mous feral horses, left­overs from the days when farm­ing and eques­trian pur­suits pre­vailed. And not long af­ter that I per­son­ally came face-to-face with my very first wild horse, a hap­pen­ing that caused me to vacil­late be­tween stroking the old boy’s su­per-soft nose—a thing I’ve loved to do since I was a kid—and heed­ing the warn­ing that seemed to flash from his fiery, red­dish eyes: Touch me, buddy, and the whole damn bunch of you will be run­ning for your lives, with feral steeds in hot, freakin’ pur­suit!

“Hey, Bill,” warned Dan. “Bet­ter not touch him.” Did I wa­ver? Yup, I must ad­mit. But then I got to thinkin’—I’d put a whole lot into this won­der­ful lit­tle trip so far. Worry, sweat, heart, soul. So, why not stick with the re­spon­si­ble, hands-off pol­icy ad­vo­cated by Cum­ber­land’s park rangers as well as by my colleagues? And I did ... as luck would have it.

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