No matter how much you know—or think you know—about boating, there’s always more to learn.
I recently accompanied two true seafaring professionals—Capt. Peter Liverzani and Capt. Felix Carcano (Pete’s trusty mate)—on a Florida-bound boat delivery. And hey, the trip turned out to be both fun and instructive, largely thanks to the asides Liverzani contributed along the way. After all, he’s a guy who, unlike the average recreational boater, spends most of his life safely shepherding all sorts of vessels—new, old and in-between—from one far-flung port to another.
The first piece of insight from Pete’s vast working knowledge that grabbed my attention surfaced while I was “on the wheel,” as they say, making a sharp, right-hand pivot into the lower end of Ponce De Leon Cut, a short distance south of Ponce Inlet. Because the vessel underfoot was brand-spanking new and valued somewhere north of three million simoleons, the skinny depth numbers I saw blinking on the big Garmin LCD were getting on my nerves.
“Pretty shallow in here,” I opined, casting a sideways glance at Pete, who was relaxing in the co-pilot’s seat. “We still in good water?”
“Yeah, you’re fine here,” he replied with the confidence that only solid local knowledge confers. “Just keep going.”
We purred along for a bit. Then, as if to break the silence, he added something that I, although having spent decades bobbing around on the high seas, had never thought of before. Fixed markers, he said, nodding toward a big, green beacon sliding past our starboard side, tend to indicate safe, reliable soundings. But buoys? They’re less reliable because they’re typically anchored in shallower areas, where shifting, changing bottoms make fixed structures untenable.
The next instructive confab with Pete occurred the following day, as we were zooming across phalanxes of six-footers in the open Atlantic. We’d just finished listening to a “Pan-Pan” call on the VHF. There were two fixed VHF radios at the helm, I’d noticed, and a handheld resting in a charger. They were all switched on.
“So, Pete,” I asked. “It’s a good idea to have two operating VHFs on board—for redundancy’s sake, I guess. But why three?”
“Simplicity,” he replied. “I keep one unit tuned to Channel 16 all the time. I set the other fixed unit up to deal with bridges and locks, using either Channel 9 or Channel 13, depending on where I’m traveling. The third radio—the handheld—is backup.”
The final tutorial arrived, fittingly enough, on the final day, all wrapped up in a story about a dicey day in New Rochelle, New York. The story opened with Pete guiding an older 55-foot cruiser through a sizable, crowded marina on a slow bell. He was planning to tie up at a fuel dock, which bordered a lengthy fairway with a haul-out slip at its bitter end.
“I was just starting my turn into the fairway, with the fuel dock on the port side,” he explained. “When the electronic engine control went haywire. I pulled the gears into neutral and then into reverse to slow down, but the boat kept going ahead, only faster. I tried reverse again—and again, it didn’t work—and only increased my speed!”
The next few moments were critical. As the cruiser lurched toward a motoryacht on the fuel dock, Pete spotted the Travelift in the haul-out slip way down the fairway. He made a split-second decision, abruptly wrenched the cruiser further to starboard and, as she continued to gain momentum, aimed her bow at the slings of the lift. Luckily, they were hanging well above the water.
“I hoped they’d catch the nose of the boat and stop ‘er,” said Pete, “and that’s pretty much what happened. In the end, the bow rail got damaged, that was it.”
The moral of the story?
“Pretty clear,” Pete concluded, “Even if you’re really comfortable with your boat, test her controls and steering in open water before you do any docking. Otherwise, bad things can happen.”
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