Ryan, my skipper for the morning and co-owner of Upshort, hull No. 1 of the Hinckley T44 EX MKII motoryacht, smiled a good morning greeting as he ambled along the dock. The eastern sky glowed faintly, like the loom of a distant city late at night. On the dark side to the west, the brightest of stars twinkled their goodbye. The clock ticked toward 0615.
Little Traverse Bay snoozed under a blanket of chilled calm, the surface resembling a mediocre computer rendering of a quiet seascape. When the glacier from the most recent North American ice age sculpted the landscape in this area, it dug a 170-foot trench just for this bay. It’s the deepest natural harbor in all the Great Lakes. The bay’s water changes color with the sky — gray/blue before sunup, pastel green/blue reminiscent of glacial meltwater in the early morning sun, and the cobalt blue of the Gulf Stream when the sun climbs to its zenith and shines from a cloudless sky.
We idled out of the marina in our best imitation of Humphrey Bogart and Walter Brennan in To Have and Have Not. Stealth was the order of the moment, not because we feared disturbing sleeping residents of the condominiums behind us. We simply didn’t want to offend the spirits by breaking the peace of the morning. So, we ghosted along, the T44’s Cummins diesels murmuring to themselves while Ryan and I chatted.
During a visit to Southwest Harbor, Maine, in 1997, he told me, the sight of five Picnic Boats under construction at Hinckley’s yard — their simple, graceful beauty — smote him mightily. To celebrate his new love, he bought a denim shirt with the company’s logo on it. He still wears it. When he was ready to buy a cruiser/day boat, he and his wife, Meg, who’s really the skipper of Upshort, knew that the T44 was just the right size. “It fit our needs perfectly,” he said. (The owners wish to remain anonymous, so I’ve called them Ryan and Meg.)
We motored southeastward, still at no-wake speed. Ryan sipped from his cup of coffee, tweaked the JetStick now and again, and told me that his only regret as the owner of Upshort is that he never gets to see her from a distance, cleaving the water at displacement speed or dancing atop the surface, hellbent for the next destination at her cruising speed of 30 knots. I understood his feeling, but I was perfectly content to hang out in the pilothouse, my perch on the Stidd buddy seat as comfortable as I could wish and the view outstanding.