A Mistress in Every Port

If 1 is the loneliest number, then 3 might be the happiest.

Steve Haefele, Illustration
Illustrated by Steve Haefele.Steve Haefele

I think of them as my wives.

I almost feel guilty,” my pal Jim said. He has owned 45 boats and was about to make it 46 when he acted on an epiphany triggered by a stack of invoices from his last cruise. While polygamy is a common spur in boat-nut genetics, Jim has taken it to another level with three new rides that he refers to as 46, 47 and 48! But is more always better?

Since Jim was a kid, he has dreamed of navigating ­Florida’s 11,000 miles of ­coastline, waterways and rivers. I suspected his epiphany was somehow related to the budget for the effort because Jim is thrifty (cheap). But buying three boats instead of one? It made no sense. He insisted that I try to connect the dots.

Jim’s passion has always been middle-aged rides with pleasant lines, proper breeding and a good turn of speed. I wondered if perhaps he’d changed course, so I took a wild guess.

“I know,” I told him. “You’re moving aboard a trawler.”

“Not the way I roll,” he said. “Too slow.”

He waited impatiently while I noodled around. A few years ago, we had reminisced about less sophisticated rides back in the day.

“I’ve got it,” I said. “You’re restoring a 1960s ­Drift-R-Cruise houseboat?”

“A cheap date for sure,” he replied, “but definitely not. Here’s a clue: For years, you and I have built our float plans around cruising, and what’s the biggest headache?”

I wasn’t sure where to begin.

“Fuel cost?” I guessed.

Jim filled in the blanks. “Coordinating vessel deployment and creating reliable supply lines,” he snapped back. “I’ve had my belly full of greasing dockmasters and boatyards in foreign ports.”

I felt confused. “You mean the Florida Keys? I’m not sure I follow you.”

“I’m talking about anywhere away from home,” he added. “Away from homes. Now do you get it? Think Guantanamo Bay.”

“You’re moving to Cuba?”

Frustrated with my inability to see the obvious, Jim explained his new lifestyle.

While half the fun of cruising is getting there, in most cases, Jim’s already been there and now considers the distance between destinations an unnecessary expense.

To solve the problem, he invested in three waterfront homes in some of Florida’s most appealing cruising areas. His 46 resides on the east coast in Stuart, while 47 is on the west coast in Placida; 48 lives in Islamorada in the Florida Keys.

“Instead of planning cruises, I now schedule conjugal visits,” Jim quipped.

While such a plan isn’t for ­everybody, it’s working perfectly for Jim. A Type-A ­chronic fiddler, he spares no effort in keeping his brood happy. He dotes on them tirelessly, personally satisfying their every need. “No cumshaw required. Their demands are tended to on time and on budget,” he said, meaning for free.

When we last spoke, Jim was preparing for a dinner cruise. “Are you taking 46, 47 or 48?” I asked.

There was a pause.

“Ya know, I love ’em all, but sometimes it can be a bit ­confusing,” he admitted.

For Jim, variety is the spice of life, and in his case, it’s ­legal in all 50 states.