Tackling the Classic U.S. Boating Debate of North Versus South.
A couple weeks ago, I attended a yacht club dinner at the invitation of a friend and had a fine time, in spite of the fact that I’m about as yachty as an aluminum canoe. Toward the shank of the evening, as coffee and other libations were being served, I made a passing remark about a relatively minor tribulation that had just been visited upon lots of us boaters in the Jacksonville area—yet another hurricane with an attendant haul-out for safety’s sake, as if the first haul-out of the season, only a month or so before, hadn’t been enough. “Shoot,” I concluded, “in all the years I’ve owned boats, I don’t recall ever before having to haul my boat twice in the same hurricane season!”
The remark did not fall upon deaf ears. In fact, it soon generated a highly entertaining confab, one that circled around the pros and cons of boating up north, where hurricanes seldom roam but the boating season is short, and boating down south, where hurricanes abound but the boating season stretches on endlessly. Initially, I wholly sided with the southern contingent and to heck with the hurricanes, mostly because I’ve lived, worked and enjoyed the waters of the sunny south for most of my life. But then a tall, jocular visitor with a blue blazer, a shock of white hair and a faint Pine Tree State accent chimed in.
“Well, guys,” he began, narrowing his grey eyes as if squinting into the teeth of a roaring gale. “I think knowing your boat is safe and sound for a few months, in a yahd next to the hahbah, is just great or, as we say up in Boothbay, just a wicked pissah.”
This was, admittedly, an excellent point. Indeed, before my wife and I departed the salty shores of Long Island Sound to rehab an old fish camp in North Florida many, many moons ago, I kept a succession of boats at Milford Boat Works, a superbly managed marine facility in the sprawling midst Connecticut. And each fall, when freezing temperatures arrived, dockside water would be shut down and most boats would be hauled out for the winter and stowed ashore. And sure, there was a downside to this—no more watery adventures until spring. But there was an undeniable benefit as well—peace of mind. Once my boat was “on the hard,” as they say, and as neatly shrink-wrapped as a Christmas present, I ceased worrying about her. Sticky float switches? Rusted-out hose clamps? Even Nor’easters? I could forget it all. For months!
“But,” continued the blue-blazing Maine-iac, adopting a conciliatory tone, “I freely admit that the year-round deal you folks enjoy down heah is great too.”
The old boy then, quite surprisingly, proceeded to add a plus to the southern boating column by scolding boaters in his very own neck of the woods. The time constraints imposed by the short northern season, he said, can sometimes compel the northern boater to bail on a social obligation or two in order to spend a day afloat. He himself even confessed to skipping some, “very important” birthdays, taking a pass on a couple graduations and pulling a no-show on a second cousin’s fourth’s-the-charm wedding.
“But,” the Maine-iac again intoned, raising an authoritative index finger aloft, “I think all of us heah must agree that the hurricane represents an absolutely savage downside to boating in the south!”
Glum looks were exchanged. While the recent storm hadn’t seriously pounded Jacksonville, southwest Florida had suffered an infinitely tragic, virtually existential blow only a month or so before.
“So, how about this for a compromise?” I piped up, in an attempt to brighten the mood. “I’ve been trying to talk my wife into it for almost 35 years now. Why not just buy a big, comfortable boat, become a liveaboard and spend summers up north and winters down south?”
Of course, everybody thought this was a fabulous idea. In fact, they unanimously pronounced it a wicked, star-spangled-bannered, “pissah!”
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