It is my routine to wander the docks in the morning. It’s pleasant exercise and I enjoy detaining fuel-dock squatters with idle chat, prohibiting their escape before the dockmaster arrives to collect the rent. On a recent round I saw something that I hadn’t seen in my 50- plus years on the water. There, in the middle of the dock adjacent to a 40-something-footer was a fit-looking thirtysomething fellow doing calisthenics. Folks, it was past sunup on a holiday weekend in the Florida Keys. If you were to spot a boater in these waters with a six-pack, it would most likely be cold and would not last the morning. Good God...was this the new yachting demographic?
At first I assumed the Jack LaLanne wannabe was a cruising guest — he certainly did not look like a yachtsman. I then noticed a woman and two young children glowering at him from the vessel’s cockpit as only a bored family could. I stood there for a moment myself, staring in disbelief, until I realized he might mistake it for admiration! Then it was a matter of negotiating a path around his portable gymnasium. He was equipped with an assortment of dumbbells, a large ball and several of those big rubber band-like things with handles. I waited until he had completed a set of jumping jacks before I slipped by. I really didn’t want to get too close — did I mention he was wearing very tight tights? Yuck.
Returning to Anhinga I found the Admiral (my wife, Nelia) sitting on the bridge reading the paper. “Dear, you won’t believe what I just saw,” I said. “There is a fellow down the dock in pink polyester underwear doing calisthenics — it’s rather troubling.” She ignored me. “You know grills, coolers and potted plants are against the rules in this marina; why should this overachiever be allowed to clutter the dock with his fitness crap? He’s even got one of those silly big balls.”
“Pilates,” said the Admiral without looking up from the paper.
“That reminds me, dear. Did I tell you about that thirtysomething fellow I saw last summer — he had a personal trainer shouting orders at him on the yacht-club lawn,” I said. “Can you believe it? What’s happening to this sport!?”
Perhaps I’m dating myself, but until recently I could spot a boater in Times Square on New Year’s Eve. I speak of my brethren with the greatest respect, but the fact is that the traditional demographic is fairly straightforward and comes in two flavors. The Southern yachtsman is most often seen in khaki shorts, a Guy Harvey T-shirt, worn flip-flops and wraparound shades on a string. The Northeastern yachtsman most often dons deck shoes and tends to be more colorful. Pink shorts (not tights), occasionally with little whales, and a green Vineyard Vines polo are quite common. These colors alternate (pant/polo) daily.
This plumage, and that of yachtsmen in other parts of the country, are simply regional adaptations, since in all other ways the species is quite similar — and this is the point. Because of evolution, survival of the fittest and all that sort of thing, yachtsmen tend to be full-size with a reddish beak and have a loud and distinctive call. This is particularly true after 6 p.m. and during mating season, which is pretty much all the time. True yachtsmen are found on or near the water and tend to gather in marinas and yacht clubs to feed — primarily on alcohol.
“Dear, a true yachtsman does not need a portable gymnasium or a personal trainer — yachting is a sport, after all,” I said, as I inhaled in search of my abs. “I’ll be at the club pressing a cold Kalik!”