When I was a kid, I was fascinated by the television show “Adventures in Paradise”.
Based on the James A. Mitchner book, it portrayed the life of Adam Troy, freakishly handsome skipper of the schooner Tiki III, as he cruised about the South Pacific, visiting mysterious islands, meeting exotic natives and colorful ex-pats and (I imagine) banging the seemingly endless stream of Hollywood guest-starlets who dropped by for an episode or two. Troy was played by Gardner McKay, great-grandson of Donald McKay, who designed all those Clipper ships.
In my adolescence, whenever things weren’t going completely as hoped, being Captain of the Tiki was one of my go-to escape fantasies. The sun, the sea, the freedom, the adventure and especially the beautiful girls falling all over my (now) freakishly handsome self. Yeah, that was my “happy place” for quite a few years.
The fantasy was never challenged by reality, though, as I had never even spent one night on a boat that didn’t have “… Of The Seas” appended to its name.
Until now. This summer I was lucky enough to spend two separate weeks afloat with good friends. My son Doug and I got to sail (mostly motor, actually) from Atlantic City to Marshfield on the Skookum Lady and, a week or so later, Betty and I boarded the Panda Bear for a week cruising Chesapeake Bay. These two weeks were fun, the friends we traveled with were super hosts and each trip became the kind of leisurely adventure that I envisioned when I retired.
But the fantasy didn’t survive.
Boats are small. Even big boats are small. The longer you are aboard, the smaller they get.
And often conditions are such that you are confined to whatever small part of the small boat you are currently in. And I don’t just mean in storms. A 36′ boat (as both were) bobs like a cork in anything but the calmest of seas. Whenever we were in protected harbors, like NYC or Crisfield, the boat ride was idyllic. Any time we were trying to get from one protected area to another, the boat pitched and rolled like a carnival ride. I can still feel the lumps on my head from negotiating the Skookum Lady’s hatch while underway in Long Island Sound.
When living out of a duffle bag, the difference between clean and dirty clothes begins to pale as the week goes on and the missed showers pile up. A thick layer of deodorant will have to suffice.
Rain and wind, while just a nuisance at my house, is a very big deal on an anchored or moored boat. A thunder storm? Do we need a second anchor? Do we have room to swing? Will the bottom hold? Are all the hatches battened? (People actually say that.)
And, of course, there are shipboard toilets. About 2/3 the size of a commuter jet lavatory, with none of the elegance, ambiance or even functionality, the facilities made every visit while underway an exercise in controlling both your body and, often, your gag reflex. Ah, the golden memories of pooping and pumping as the tiny room lurched about will last a lifetime!
But this is not to imply that I regret either of those two weeks in any way. Don’t get me wrong. If invited again by either couple, I would drop everything and happily join our friends on board. Being with friends, going new places and having new experiences is the best part of life. And Steve and Beth and Larry and Flora gave me all that, in spades.
But my childhood fantasy of effortlessly guiding my trusty sailboat over the bounding main with an exotic drink in my hand and my own true love at my side? Perhaps inevitably, that took a bit of a hit. I had the drink and my love was right there with me, but the main was bounding just a bit too much. And I was often distracted a little by the hope of a shower and a flush toilet at the next stop.
And the “freakishly handsome” part never really happened for me either.