Nightmares on a Dock

There are times I wish I'd used the anchor!

May Telltales
Steve Haefele

As we plan a cruise aboard Anhinga, the Admiral is giving me a hard time. She wants to go “somewhere different,” insisting I’ve become “set in my ways.” I’ll admit that in 30 years of cruising I do have a short list of proven destinations that are something of a bad habit. Then there are the places where I’ve been dock-bound and wished I’d used the anchor.

I had proposed the “oldest city” — St. Augustine, Florida. “Dear, it’s wonderful up there this time of year.” I reminded the Admiral how pleasantly unspoiled the Intracoastal Waterway is once you clear South Florida’s condo-clad waters and grumbling masses. St. Augustine still looks like a small town, and the population is actually pleasant.

“We’ve been to St. Augustine so often we qualify for the seasonal rate,” groused the Admiral. She proposed a visit to the Hog’s Breath Saloon in Key West with a stop at South Beach.

Not since Miami Vice’s Tubbs and Crockett came to town has South Beach been the same. “Dear, I like pastels, white linen and art deco, but South Beach is like the set of America’s Got Talent.” I reminded her that guests taking a snapshot on the doorstep of their trendy flea-bag hotel will likely find a charge on their bill and that a certain South Beach marina shook me down for 50 bucks simply for collecting a pal at the fuel dock. If I broke down off Miami, I swear I’d drift to Daytona Beach before calling for help. “Dear, a week’s stay at the town dock in St. Augustine costs less than a night’s dockage in South Beach or Key West. … How about Islamorada?”

“That’s not a cruise. We practically live there,” she groused. “How about the Bahamas?” she countered.

“Dear, this time of year fishing tournaments sweep across the islands like locusts — they’ll consume all the Kalik, and I know how you feel about gambling on billfish.” I reminded her of a moss-covered rock we might have missed had it not been for the glow of cockpit lights and the Hank Williams tunes piercing the thin light of dusk. The docks were packed with 20-something fish-boat crews and full-beam owners from land-locked ZIP codes that had been swilling loudmouth soup since breakfast.

“Are you the ###hole that writes for Yachting?” hollered a particularly unpleasant fellow who had managed to decipher the logo on my cap — small world!

During tournament season there is only one spot I know of that is not a fish-boat frat house, since it lacks Kalik. The inhabitants are genuine, the beach is perfect, and the conch salad and bread are spectacular. In fact, the place is so damn pleasant that fellow cruisers will blacklist me if I mention its name. “How about ###? We’ll BYO,” I suggested to the Admiral.

"And … ?" She waited expectantly. I'll admit the island gets a bit small after a week … hmmm?
Tiring of my whining and lack of imagination, the Admiral dredged up a few memories of her own — pictures of Anhinga some grump had posted in a dockmaster's office long ago. Her cockpit looked like a dumpster behind a brewery. "Ahh … this was the morning that followed the night that followed my best day of fishing ever," I remembered with a smile.

“You closed the bar and invited the band to set up in the cockpit — you were a lot of fun in those days,” said the Admiral. She was right! I was behaving like an old fart, picking on my boating brethren and the hardworking professionals that put up with us.

OK ... I have tuned my guitar and we are headed to fish the Bahamas. If you hear some ###hole 10 slips away singing “There’s a Tear in my Beer,” it won’t be Hank Williams … sorry, small world!