The Op­er­a­tive Fac­tor

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, YOU MAY HAVE ONLY YOUR­SELF TO FALL BACK ON.

Power & Motor Yacht - - UNCHARTED WATERS -

a set­tee. Ear­lier, Eddy had been on deck, in the midst of the may­hem for hours. He was ex­hausted, snor­ing. Al­though the wind­shield wipers slapped, I could see zilch. I checked the anemome­ter—it jit­tered at 40 knots, mean­ing we were per­haps out­run­ning the north­bound storm.

Just south of the coast, an eerie rush­ing sound be­gan. What was that? An en­gine prob­lem, heaven for­bid? An au­di­tory hal­lu­ci­na­tion caused by my own brand of ex­haus­tion? I gave the anemome­ter an­other glance—the nee­dle skit­tered ahead as wind in the mas­sive steel mast above the wheel­house be­gan wail­ing … 60 knots, 65 knots, 70 knots, 80 knots, 85 knots!

Fear nearly over­whelmed me. From what I could tell, given the ex­treme yaw of the ves­sel and the depths of the wa­tery green val­leys I saw be­yond the bow when I flicked on the spot­lights, I was deal­ing with hur­ri­cane-driven fol­low­ing seas, huge ones. But where the heck was I? Was that Cameron loom­ing ahead? My radar im­agery looked un­fa­mil­iar. Where was the sea buoy? The two, long rock jet­ties ex­tend­ing sea­ward? The buoys be­yond the jet­ties?

Then, I got it. Ev­ery­thing was un­der­wa­ter, sub­merged be­neath the surge pushed north by the storm. More­over, be­cause all phys­i­cal cues were gone, the Lib­erty’s radar was now about as use­less as her brand-new Sat­Nav which, for some in­ex­pli­ca­ble rea­son, had not coughed up a po­si­tion in hours.

Cameron’s lights beck­oned. But what if I hit the jet­ties go­ing in and tore the bot­tom out of the boat? I started a turn in the depths of a likely trough, think­ing I’d head back south to gain time and sea room. But we al­most rolled over. So back I went to my north­bound course, throt­tled ’ er way down, and con­tin­ued to peer into the fury ahead.

But was there some­thing way out there? Maybe? Were there two lights, one steady and the other blink­ing, ver­ti­cally aligned, one over the other? Range lights? Range lights I’d used to ne­go­ti­ate the jet­ties many times be­fore? I took a cal­cu­lated risk, aimed for the vague glow, and even­tu­ally stead­ied up on a course that matched the range’s charted bear­ing.

It worked! Soon the Lib­erty was tied along­side, dis­charg­ing pas­sen­gers, and I was con­sid­er­ing a point that’s as valid to­day as it was back then. Marine tech­nol­ogy is gen­er­ally use­ful and trust­wor­thy. But some­times—un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances— self-re­liance must take prece­dence. In­deed, it must be­come, of ne­ces­sity, the op­er­a­tive fac­tor.

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