In his Uncharted Waters column, Capt. Bill Pike wonders how he’ll find the strength to carry on.
So, although I plan on doing features and other projects for Power & Motoryacht in the future, I figure this Uncharted Waters column is gonna be my last. While I’m not exactly sure when I began composing these little ditties for the back page of Power & Motoryacht, trust me, I’ve been doing it for a long, long time. And, naturally, I’m gonna miss the monthly exercise, not only because it’s always activated the gray matter that otherwise snoozes between my ears, but also because it’s routinely added a little old-fashioned fun to my life and—last but not least—it’s invariably reminded me to honor an all-time favorite apothegm: “Billy Boy, don’t take yourself so damn seriously.”
As you’d imagine, I’ve got a whole pile of projects standing by to absorb the slack. The novel about the Vietnam War and its aftermath is moving along at a smooth, if trawlerly, pace and I’ve got ideas for a second book, as well as a North Florida fish-camp memoir, bubbling away down in the dark, subconscious goo. Moreover, my roll cast needs serious improvement and my flyfishing buddy George is already working up the logistics for another excursion into the wilds of Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest where the trout are native, the little rivers sparkle and millions of stars blanket the heavens just about every night.
And also, of course, there’s the messing-about-in-boats thing, a source of delight that captured my heart when I was knee-high to a bollard and, to this day, continues to offer the very same feelings of peace, contentment and excitement I started with. Indeed, I see absolutely no good reason why chalking up 76 years on the leaderboard next month should in any way stop a guy like me from continuing to happily cruise the coastal waters of our great nation in a little trawler like my beloved Betty Jane II.
There’s one sticky point that begs consideration, however, at least for a guy at my stage of the game. In order to completely and responsibly enjoy the charms of boating—whether it’s purring into a favorite harbor at the end of a perfect afternoon; or relishing the sight of a beautiful boat from afar, glowing in a morning’s sunlight; or simply settling into a salty seafaring book while snugged up in a warm sleeping bag in a dry berth during a bad blow—a boater’s gotta meet a few modest standards of human physicality.
Unsurprisingly, I did not come close to appreciating this concept in my youth, when I was jumping around offshore supply vessels like Burt Lancaster in The Crimson Pirate. But today, I’m older, wiser and totally convinced that “strength training,” as it’s often called, is the unrivaled key to staying fit for a solid, ongoing life afloat, at least for those of us in our 70s and 80s. I mean, if I don’t maintain a little basic mobility, a reasonable degree of agility, a bit of endurance and, perhaps more critical than anything else, enough muscular oomph to haul a Group 31 marine battery out of an engine room if necessary, I gotta wonder—just how much fun is cruising around in the Betty Jane II gonna actually be?
Which is why, several months ago, I returned to the local strength-training gym I abandoned during the pandemic. And yeah, getting back in shape was no easy chore, although the fact that my trainer has a side job as a drill sergeant in the National Guard adds both humor and irony to the endeavor, in large part because my own basic training experiences at Ft. Dix, New Jersey in 1967 were so, let’s say, challenging.
“You know, John,” I opined on day-one while laying on my back beneath a hefty barbell. “Chances that this kinda stuff’s gonna turn me into Dwayne Johnson at this point in my life are slim to none. I just wanna be able to enjoy my boat—get from one end to the other safely—well into my 80s. Maybe even 90s. Possible?”
“Oh yeah, Bill,” he replied with a grin. “Maybe we can even take a boat ride some time. I’m into boats myself.”
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This article originally appeared in the April 2023 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.