Hitting a Sour Note

Our columnist explains why he likes to play solo.

October 12, 2018
Team work doesn’t always make the dream work when it comes to boating. Steve Haefele

The summer heat had been on high here in South ­Florida, so I called my pal Ed to see if it was any cooler up North. “I gotta call you back. I can’t find my boat,” he sputtered before the line went dead.

Ed is a big shot in the marine industry and knows his way around yachting. He has people. What could go wrong? Ed’s boat winters in Florida and summers in New England. He can’t be bothered with the back and forth, so he simply writes checks and his orchestra handles the details. Maintenance, provisioning, pickup and delivery — Ed has described it as a seamless symphony.

This year, the band hit a sour note. Ed had often boasted of his float plan. “Coyle, if you weren’t such a Type A, you too could enjoy the benefits of our pastime without the hassles,” he said. “You must learn to trust others and to delegate.”


I admit that I have always preferred performing as a solo act at sea. As captain, the only times I’ve run out of fuel, alcohol or ice were when I counted on others for provisioning.

Ed’s personal assistant conducts the various players in his four-movement symphony. Capt. John collects the boat from Ed’s dock and takes it to the boatyard. After preparing it for shipping, he supervises its loading aboard Bill’s specialized yacht hauler. Tom, the yard manager in New England, supervises unloading and launching, while Capt. Chris cleans and provisions the boat before delivery.

In this season’s performance, Ed flew to New ­England and boarded the harbor launch on schedule. Once at sea, he naturally took charge: “Mooring 421, chop, chop.”


The helmsman looked confused. Ed barked his vessel’s name.

“Sir, I ­haven’t seen her in the harbor this year,” the ­helmsman replied.

“Yes, yes, young man, she just arrived yesterday,” Ed offered ­confidently.


The helmsman shrugged, and off they wafted into the fog.

Reflecting on that day, after several glasses of wine, Ed struggled with his words. “Coyle, the boat wasn’t there,” he told me. “The #%# boat wasn’t there!”

Ed had called his personal assistant from the launch, which had been filling with rainwater as it did laps around the mooring field in search of his boat. Ed’s assistant had called Capt. John, Bill the trucker and Tom the yard boss. The boat had arrived in New England, and Capt. Chris had collected it, but he, and the boat, was nowhere to be found.


“He wasn’t answering his #%# cellphone, Coyle,” Ed stammered. “Can you believe it? A professional captain, for God’s sake.”

With his boat lost at sea, Ed ordered the launch’s helmsman to set course for the nearest bar.

It turned out that Ed’s orchestra was only as good as its weakest player, Capt. Chris, who had only recently been brought up from the minors.

“The knucklehead delivered the boat to mooring 421 all right,” Ed grumbled. “In the wrong #%# harbor.”

Ed found his charge less than a mile from the boatyard. And given the reviews of his orchestra’s symphony this year, Ed is considering becoming a one-man band.


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