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Tell Tales: Close Encounters

On seeing the light and trying to communicate with aliens.

August 8, 2015
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Coyle, I need the perfect ride for cruising the out islands,” insisted my pal. He appeared to listen carefully as I offered advice. “No more than 5-foot draft, satcom, watermaker, life raft … check.” A week later he closed on a rig that had none of this stuff and 10 more feet than he could afford. “Hell, I hardly had enough dough left for the lighting system,” he groused. Huh? I didn’t remember mentioning lighting. “That’s right, underwater lights,” explained my pal. “Blue, of course.”

“You do appreciate that yacht designers do their best to reduce the number of hull penetrations, right?” I explained. “You know: leaks, seawater, sinking?” “It’s perfectly safe,” he insisted, quoting some industry nabob other than yours truly.

Good god! It’s not just underwater anymore. He’s screwing them in everywhere. “I’m sure you will win first place in the Christmas boat parade, but what you’re blowing on decorations might have covered the cost of something useful,” I suggested. “Maybe a watermaker or, say, a life raft?” He simply smiled and shrugged.

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“What has happened to boating?” I asked a broker pal who’s about my vintage. “How did we morph from blue blazers to blue lights?” “Coyle, it’s just not enough to have a boat anymore,” he explained. His lips tightened and his voice lowered. “The truth is, boats all look the same these days.”

He was right. During the Clorox-bottle period, designers fattened waterlines and overstuffed boats with more berths than a troop ship. Now we are stretching buttocks (a technical term) in the age of the Euro-style fiberglass suppository. It’s just not black and white anymore. I’ve heard metallic bronze is quite a sight under blue lights. There are more silly colors on topsides than there are above Top-Siders at a Newport cocktail party. It’s only a matter of time before someone adds the little lobsters.

“Stop your whining, Coyle. People just want to accessorize,” explained my broker pal. I thought back to the 1980s, when flood-lit transoms and name boards were the rage; some even opted for neon. I suppose that’s when it all started. I remember working with an owner on a large motoryacht project at the time. Of the thousands of details and examples of craftsmanship aboard his new ride he might have boasted about, the first thing he showed his friends was his state-of-the-art air horns. Don’t misunderstand: A beautiful set of chrome-plated Kahlenbergs is damn impressive, but his could play songs. As I remember it, a collection of patriotic tunes and disco hits of the day.

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I suspect change is in the air. The other evening while wandering the dock, a large Euro-style sled coasted into view. I stared at it for more than a minute in awe. Blue lights were planted every few feet above and below the waterline — what a sight. It reminded me of the alien mothership hovering atop Devils Tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

All that was missing was a set of Kahlenbergs communicating with the inferior life forms ashore. And then it happened, as if by magic … da da da da da … as the boat tied up I could almost hear those iconic five notes: G, A, F, F, C.

Blue lights lit up across the marina; life forms were communicating. But what were they saying? I can only hope it was something like: “Wait a minute, it’s all about me. Me, me, me! Damn, that knucklehead has more blue lights than I do!” I hope that it will be something else soon … anything! Nantucket red with martini glasses and green lights might work.

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