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Best Day On The Water: Trust Your Senses, And First Mate!

First mate illustration

Illustration: Gary Hovland

The year was 1985, before GPS, autopilots, cellphones. We navigated by compass and wristwatch, plotting our course on paper charts. We'd been married less than a year. Soon after I asked her to marry me came my next big question: "Do you like boating? Sleeping on the hook in new harbors, traveling by water?" Luckily, she said "yes" to all.

We purchased our first boat, a beautiful 27-foot Chaparral, with every penny we had and a sizable bank loan. The boat was clad in magnificent teak. The big day finally arrived for our first voyage.

I spent hours calculating course, tides, time. We set out on a glorious morning from Mamaroneck, New York. My plan? A leisurely turn to port after 15 minutes running at 12 knots. Perfect. We crossed Long Island Sound and were looking for the entrance to the Connecticut River. Within minutes, we became enveloped in pea-soup fog. I could barely see the bow of the boat, but I knew we were in the right spot. After circling for an hour, I got apprehensive. There were huge rocks on the jetty that lines the east side of the river's mouth.

My new wife said, "If you know the river is here, it must be. Turn off the engine and let's listen." Sure enough, we heard the dinging of the red buoy marking the entrance to the river. The fog lifted, and we had a wonderful vacation.

I learned two important lessons that day: Trust your instincts, and more importantly, marry a smart woman with good instincts who is a true mate for life.

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Dr. Bernard Schayes

BoatUS Member

Award-winning BoatUS Magazine is the official publication of Boat Owners Association of The United States. The magazine provides boating skills, DIY maintenance, safety, news and more from top experts.