As the Boat Floats: An Adopted Family

Characters: George, handyman; Scott, Jerry’s (hippie) nephew; Randy, houseboat co-owner; Jared, serial lover; Jim, houseboat co-owner; Laverne and Raymond, Vertigo owners; Ellen and Stanley, cruiser neighbors

The Fishing Squad congratulate themselves over a job well done—the removal of a barbed hook from Jerry’s eyelid. They argue about where to fish next. Where are the bass and catfish? Should they stay on the dock, where fish hide under the boats, or should they take a boat onto open water and locate an abyss where fish are feeding?

George volunteers, “I have a johnboat with a 9 horse-power motor. Nothing fancy but will get us to a fishing hole.”

“Not enough power. We’d be puttering along during the best time of day to catch fish,” Scott advises.

Without agreeing on a compromise, they watch in horror as two families, each with two golden retrievers, and Jared, steering a wheelbarrow with a mound of drinks, snacks, and inflatable water toys, invade their fishing space.

With urgency is his voice, Randy suggests, “Let’s take the houseboat out on the lake. There’s plenty of room with a well-stocked kitchen and we have kayaks on top that can take us to where the fish are. Let’s get out of here, now.” The Squad obeys Randy’s commands without question, as if escaping from a hostile enemy.

Jared yells, “Where are you going? We just got here!”

“As far away as we can get,” Jim bellows.

Still sitting at the table, not invited to join the Squad’s fishing expedition, I jester to Jared to join me. “They are after trophy-size fish. They don’t want to bother with swimming, grilling, and other domestic fun,” I recap. “It appears that they believe women and children will disrupt their quest.”

“Let’s prove them wrong,” Jared smiles. He motions to me, the two families with kids and dogs to board his 70-foot, two-and-a-half-story cabin cruiser.

The yacht is breath-taking and overwhelming—like entering Emerald City on the way to the Oz but it’s made of teak instead of emeralds. The aft deck is teak with a swim platform and stainless-steel ladder. Taking a few teak steps up, an entertainment area with two cushioned couches, a mini fridge, and a 36-inch TV welcomes us. The kids with the dogs jump on the divans, reserving a prime location, assuming that it can’t get any better than this. But it does.

“Let me show you around,” Jared offers.

The galley has multiple stainless-steel sinks and floor to ceiling teak cabinets. More sofas invite us to sit and relax. Behind the seats is the helm with two captain chairs. Above the steering wheel, countless dials, arranged just below the wrap-around bow window, resemble the cockpit of an airplane. Jared gives us a sampling of the ship’s various electronic features—fish-finder, depth-finder, contour of the lake bottom, interactive map of the lake, and so on (too much to soak in at one time).

“Downstairs is my bachelor den,” he smirks (Is he salivating? I wonder).

He opens the door to each of three cabins, equipped with heads and showers with teak lattice flooring. “When we’re underway, the shower can become slippery,” he explains, recognizing my fascination with his preoccupation with teak. The master bed is round. I resist the desire to ask him if it vibrates to the sound of music.

He guides us up one flight of teak stairs and then onto another. “The flybridge is the most spectacular part of the yacht.” There is another helm, a replica of the one on the first floor, and more cushioned leather seats. “Piloting from up here is like flying. I focus on the horizon ahead, as if I’m the captain of a plane. And with engines that generate 1120 horsepower, the ship has the potential to transform into an air craft,” he jokes.

Laverne, Ellen, and I relax on the flybridge as Jared orders the men to detach the lines. He starts the motors, slides down the stairs and disconnects the electric plugs and water hose. With Jared on the dock, I steal the captain’s chair, “just in case the craft moves forward,” I explain to the women, looking at me in disbelief.

Appearing soundlessly, Jared jests, “Oh, I see we have another pilot onboard.” Embarrassed, I join my friends. “Not so quick. I’ll show you how to maneuver out of the slip. You may want to practice on your houseboat when we return.” I regret my impulse. I’ve been told this is a three-million-dollar yacht. I’m out of my league, but I play along to save face; inside, I’m jello.

He sits in the captain’s seat next to mine. “It’s easy. This lever pushes the boat forward and this one turns the craft right or left. Check to see if the lines are detached. Check! Slowly push the lever forward. Yes, you’re doing well. The cruiser needs to clear the slip before turning left. Good. More left. That’s it. Now straighten it out–turn the lever to its original position. This is a no-wake zone. You’re at the right speed. Notice, the steering wheel is used only for minor corrections in direction—not for navigating.” White-knuckled, I sigh deeply with relief.

“You did very well. I forgot to tell you that I can maneuver from here with this joy stick,” he laughs.

I want to slap him, but I smile, sweetly, already planning how to seek revenge.

As we leave the marina and head south, we spot Jim and Randy’s houseboat near Starnes Island. As we approach, the craft seems becalmed. “He wouldn’t anchor in the middle of the lake,” Jared surmises. Pulling alongside the houseboat, he shouts, “Anything wrong?”

“We’re out of gas,” Randy barks, shaking his head. “I thought Jim filled the tank and he assumed that I did. We’re marooned,” he admits, mortified.

“You know the routine. I’ll pull ahead. As I back up, throw us two lines–one starboard and the other port–to attach to our stern. We’ll tow you to VIP Marina.” He directs Raymond and Stanley to tie the ropes securely to the stern cleats to withstand the weight of the houseboat. Unconcerned, Scott is fishing from the houseboat’s stern.

Jared calls ahead to alert the marina manager. Because access to the diesel pump is limited, the yacht will not have enough room to deliver the houseboat to the fueling dock. The manager sends two runabouts to guide the houseboat close enough to refuel. Raymond and Stanley are in position to through the two ropes to the boatmen. (

Jared guides his cruiser into a visitor slip and invites the houseboat crew onto his yacht. Randy and Jim bring refreshments, enough for all of us, as a peace offering.

“Let this be a lesson: Don’t leave us behind,” I pretend I’m kidding, but I really mean it. “After all, the marina makes us an adopted family.”


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