Wide Load

Moving aboard for the summer with everything but the kitchen sink.

Earlier this year, we began stuffing Anhinga, our 37-foot Bertram, like a turkey in preparation for our traditional summer cruise to the Bahamas. It's important to know that packing is its own tradition in the Coyle family. We spend no fewer than three months loading everything dear to us on board. This time, I knew Anhinga was "done" when I discovered a pallet of junk food crammed in her swollen bilge cavity. Cheez-Its crowding my Kalik reserves? It was my turn to carve this turkey!

I stormed down our dock and gathered the family for counsel. "This is ridiculous, I declared. "There are some things we must live without. My son, Jake, was quick to remind me how feeble I became several cruises ago, when we ran out of canned tuna, my primary source of nourishment when fishing is slow. Though I cannot call the illness I suffered scurvy, it must have been something similar, for after a month of chewing cracked conch, my teeth were as loose as my digestive system.

But it was my 160-pound, 6-foot-tall, 14-year-old son, Casey, who suffered most. His special "lacrosse" diet consists of bacon cheeseburgers, curly fries and Super Big Gulps, cuisine that is at best difficult to procure in the Family Islands. In anticipation of this, he packed the freezer with hamburger patties and Tater Tots. This not only crowded my Jimmy Dean sausage biscuits, it repulsed Nelia, my wife and health-conscious admiral. She, in turn, filled Anhinga's few remaining cubic feet with soybean burgers and frozen peas. "Why not Hamburger Helper? I pleaded. "It must be on the food pyramid somewhere, and it fits right under the settee!

"Preservatives", she scolded.

I had thought that replacing the VCR and cassette player with a DVD/CD player would relieve congestion in the entertainment department, but the boys simply packed more movies and music. Nelia, who does not approve of anything filmed after Ozzie & Harriet signed off, decreed, as she had in years past, that we would be playing board games. Now we have four new ones in addition to the half-dozen we never played in the first place.

Then, of course, there's our choice of tender. Nelia does not care much for my old, reliable 13-foot Boston Whaler-something about the ride. She would much prefer we tow her 19-foot Hewes flats skiff. In addition, she insists Anhinga's bow has room for at least two kayaks, while the lazarette is stuffed with enough dive gear to equip a team of Navy Seals. The Seals evidently carry Weber grills as well, for there's one wedged between Anhinga's spare wheels.

Clothing is not a problem for Casey, since he can squeeze three weeks' service out of a Syracuse lacrosse jersey. I favor "office dress" in the islands, since a bathing suit and Yachting T-shirt are fairly easy to care for. It pains me to see Nelia and Jake bringing duffels packed to their drawstrings, but I know it could be worse: Anhinga could be fitted with a washer/dryer.

My broker friends are all trying to talk me into a bigger boat, but I won't budge. What's the point? My family packs like survivalists. Another five feet would take another three months to stuff. Anhinga may huff and puff like a turkey, but she'll manage. If you're headed for the Bahamas next June, you won't have trouble finding us. We'll be the ones on the horizon leaving a trail of black smoke and frozen peas.