Just about three years ago, I got behind the helm of a sleek Chaparral Suncoast for the first time. I zig-zagged down the channel at Black Rock Harbor out onto the Long Island Sound, oversteering whenever I started to drift off course. And my early days of docking? Let’s not even talk about them. Let’s just say I (barely) managed not to damage anything (or anyone).
Today, docking no longer sends my pulse (or the dock staff’s pulse) skyrocketing. I can steer straight down a channel, even on a windy day. And I’ve learned a few lessons, some only after trials by fire, some by anecdote- see if you can guess which is which:
Do buy plenty of floats, take the kids tubing, and entertain them onboard with playdough or similarly solid and fungible toys.
Don’t give the kids crayons and coloring pages, unless you enjoy fishing soggy images of Elsa and Anna out of the water with a docking pole while scrambling over tiny rolling, half-melted cylinders. If that’s your thing, then go for it.
Do serve your guests dinner in a quiet cove as the sun paints the sky orange and purple.
Don’t serve your guests a cheese board and sushi while anchored in 2 foot waves, unless they are unwanted guests whom you never want to take boating again. (Don’t worry, friends, you were very much wanted guests.)
Do crank the volume and rock out to your favorite tunes when you pass the no wake marker and gun it.
Don’t don your favorite hat or leave your favorite magazine (book / chart / winning lottery ticket) loose on deck when you pass the no wake marker and gun it.
Don’t dawdle in front of the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson ferry when it’s trying to leave the dock. The captain will honk at you . . . multiple times . . . even if you smile and shrug your shoulders innocently as if to say “Sorry, new boater.”
Do zip through the ferry’s wake if it’s a calm day and there are no other waves to play in.
And steer clear of the rocky bottoms, unless you’re in a kayak. Anchoring in them is an exercise in futility, and you definitely don’t want to hit them. As Lady Gaga might sing, “I’m in the deep end, watch as I drive in, I’ll never touch the ground . . . Splash ‘cross the surface, where rocks can’t hurt us, stay far from the shallows now . . .”
Although, in nearly every other facet of life, 2020 can’t draw to a close soon enough, I will miss this season on the water as I prepare to kiss my boats goodbye and hunker down for the long, dreary winter ahead.