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Storm Warnings

The perfect solution for the BlackBerry Blues!

May 10, 2010
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There’s a lesson learned every time YACHTING Editor George Sass, Jr., and I leave the dock aboard Anhinga. Last year I learned that the captain not only goes down with the ship, he goes down for the ship. The chain of command was clear when I went over the side in search of the towline I had backed over. We had been rushing and chattering on our cell phones and I forgot that Anhinga was not alone. This year when I shanghaied George for the pilgrimage to Anhinga’s winter base in Islamorada, Florida, I was determined to slow things down and disconnect.

It is George’s habit to rush from port to port, all the while connected to his BlackBerry—it’s the stuff that makes YACHTING work. He would be arriving by plane from a tour of the European boat shows late in the evening and proposed we cast off before sunup. Feigning a delay in bailing Anhinga out of the boatyard, I insisted on a late start and a pit stop in Palm Beach. Seas were less than two feet and the sky clear as we wandered down the coast. I lowered the riggers and fished but George was forced into the cabin where he spent the afternoon pecking responses to a growing heap of e-mails.

By the next morning the wind was blowing 20 knots out of the southeast and George was still connected as I disconnected Anhinga from the dock. As we punched through the first 8-footer in the inlet, we braced ourselves and George’s BlackBerry attempted to abandon ship. The bell on the cockpit bulkhead chimed constantly, signaling what the Coyle family refers to simply as “bell ringer” conditions. Turning south we settled at 17 knots in a 5- to 6-foot sea. Anhinga is like a tank in such a seaway, but she tends to be a bit animated. I turned the helm over to George and went below to secure loose ends.

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It was too late! As is her habit in rough going, Anhinga had opened her maw (cabin door) and was attempting to spill her guts into the cockpit. The galley cabinets were spewing cans of chunk white albacore and a collection of protein bars while the sofa was shuffling for the door. I headed for the bridge to escape the maelstrom. While Anhinga is a dry boat in reasonable conditions, spray was clearing her half tower, depositing a salty blend of seawater and sargassum about the bridge. George gripped the wheel with glee. “It’s not so bad…better than idling down the ICW,” he shouted. “Want me to take over? We still have a signal…” I hinted, hopefully. The hell with his therapy, I was desperately hoping he would succumb to electronic temptation. “No way…this is just what I needed—what a boat,” said George with a fiendish grin.

Resigned, I now appreciated why my family no longer joins me on such deliveries. I braced myself in the cockpit until the soot from Anhinga’s overworked diesels overcame me. I looked like a coal miner as I returned to the cabin and fought my way forward through the debris. I spent the rest of the trip on my stomach, hanging down the passageway steps and collecting the remains of two wine glasses that had leapt to their death from the counter. When the beating stopped, I returned to the bridge exhausted and bleeding from the foot—I had obviously missed a shard. “That was great,” announced George enthusiastically. “What a day!”

George spent the evening fielding the 100-plus e-mails that had landed on his BlackBerry during its bout with mal de mer. Lesson learned…modern communications are best when salt and sea render them useless. Anhinga is tethered to the dock at Plantation Yacht Harbor, and the weatherman suggests a late-season tropical storm off the Yucatan is headed our way. Perfect conditions…I’ll give George a call!

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