Many mariners would agree that sailing is the pinnacle of boating. Many would not. This has always been a rivalry among boaters ever since steam replaced sail and it certainly takes two sides to create an argument.
Power boaters call sailors blow boaters, rag hangers, and snobs. Sailors call motor boaters stink pots, and other names that are generally not mentioned in mixed company. On occasion, even if one happens to be a devoted fan of sailing or powerboating, situations can arise that might perhaps open up and expose a fresh point of view.
When the Marco Beach Boys began, they began with sailboats. There were no Jet Skis, Parasail tours, or any other kind of boating on the beach whatsoever. Sailing was the sport for Marco Beach and the Beach Boys that rented sailboats and gave rides and lessons were always very proud to be good sailors.
There was always a favorite saying when any newly married couple would arrive at the beach and ask to rent a sailboat: “The best way for honeymooners to end up in a quick divorce is to rent a sailboat together.”
As Beach Boys and Girls, we had code names for our guests that would rent our boats. This was not to be rude, mean, or derogatory. This was a way to keep track of who was out on the water. When any boy and girl couple of any age rented a sailboat, they were “Honeymooners.” When it was an older couple with grandkids, they were the “Grandparents.” When someone showed up with a strong New York accent, they were the New Yorkers and when someone with a southern drawl arrived, they were the Tennesseans because I was from Tennessee and everyone loved to make fun of my accent.
The code name, however, that nearly always meant trouble was “Super Sailors.” These were the individuals that would approach the beach hut and start a conversation by finding fault with our sailboats. This was normal for Super Sailors because they were the snobbish type of sailors that most power boaters truly detest. These individuals knew that they knew everything about sailing and every variety of boat since Noah made the ark. Therefore, Super Sailors did not need to follow any rules. Especially the rule about staying close to the resort and not sailing offshore. The very first rule for safety for the Marco Beach Boys was to keep all the rented boats in sight! Always!
Of course, when anyone would approach the beach hut and ask to rent a sailboat we would always ask about sailing experience.
On one fine winter afternoon, two men in their middle forties arrived and asked to rent, “The Hobby Craft.”
As always, we cringed because the name for our 16-foot very fast sailing boat was Hobie Cat. Hobie for the California man that renovated catamaran sailing and started producing some of the finest sailboats ever and Cat for catamaran.
We did consider that the misspoken term might have been accidental because the two men did seem to be very different from our conventional guests, partly because of their tiny snug fitting bathing suits. Misspoken or not, after a few more sentences there was no doubt we had a couple of Super Sailors standing before us.
“Do you know how to sail?” was our standard opening question.
“Yes, of course,” was the instant answer, “We have sailed everywhere throughout the world.”
At this point Timmy, our Florida Cowboy, chimed in as he offered two lifejackets. “Here you are guys, these should fit.”
“Certainly not!” was the flippant reply. “We came here to get a tan. Not to wear lifejackets!”
“Sorry,” Timmy offered, “You wear a lifejacket or you don’t go out.”
After Timmy delivered the ultimatum, we continued with the sailing rules. “Please sail only along the crescent beach and do not go offshore. You must wear your life jackets at all times and if the wind becomes stronger come back to the beach.”
The Super Sailors immediately went into a tangent of whispering while donning lifejackets and then they were off to the water’s edge. After more whispers regarding the sails and the rigging, the world’s best sailors hopped aboard and were speeding out into the gulf on a beautiful and almost brand new Hobie-16 Catamaran.
Before the Super Sailors were fifty yards out, the required life jackets were off and visible beside the sailboat mast. Within half an hour, the warm southern breeze shifted to the northwest winter wind. As the whitecaps began streaking and turned into four-foot waves, the Super Sailors disappeared over the horizon.
After all our other sailboats returned to the beach, the wind from the arriving cold front began to take on a chill and a scary place began to grow in every one of the Beach Boys that were gathered and looking out to sea. We had a missing boat with two of our guests and only a general idea of where they might be found. We all knew we were responsible and had to venture out to find our lost fledglings—Super Sailors or not.
Before any further discussion, our inflatable motor-driven Zodiac was powering through the waves in the direction the Super Sailors had disappeared. After a drenching half-hour of pounding through the growing waves and with the cold salt spray soaking everything, Timmy and I saw a big stone crab boat in the distance. After another ten minutes of breaking waves and flying spray, we saw our Hobie Cat flipped over beside the crab boat.
When we slowed to come alongside the crabbers, the scene was unforgettable. Despite the cold, the rough waves, and the drenching spray, we both started laughing. We had found our missing guests, and our missing boat, and we were obviously silly with relief. Even though the sails were torn and ruined, and even though the crabbers had tied the capsized Hobie to the side of their boat and every wave was scratching the once beautiful sailing machine, the sight of the two Super Sailors freezing in their tiny bathing suits opposite the crabbers dressed in foul-weather gear was priceless.
When we tied up alongside the crab boat and one of the crabbers threw us a line were trying not to laugh but the giggles would not stop. The Super Sailors were huddled together for warmth on the back of the crab boat with their tiny bathing suits barely visible. On the other side of the deck and wheelhouse, three crabbers were glowering at the Super Sailors with expressions of total disgust. The contrast of personalities between the crabbers on their diesel boat and the now not–so–snobbish humiliated Super Sailors was a lesson not to be forgotten.
Before speaking, the captain of the crab boat sent out a stream of tobacco juice that missed our Zodiac by one inch. “These two belong to you?” The Captain spat out the words before he jerked a thumb at the Super Sailors. “We’ve been babysitting here for more than an hour, while we should’ve been pulling traps. I’ve been burning diesel and losing money.”
“Sorry about that,” was all we could think of other than we had better stop with the laughing and the giggles. Timmy and I were the only ones amused.
There were a couple of dry towels visible through the window of the wheelhouse and this seemed to be the object of discussion as the two soaking Super Sailors whispered, pointed, and shivered in the cold wind. The crab boat captain obviously had no intention of speaking directly to his rescued guests. Instead, he looked the Beach Boys over again with renewed interest. “You alright to take these two with you and tow the sailboat?”
Timmy and I chimed in together, “Yes, sir.”
After we righted the Hobie Cat and dropped the torn and ruined sail that really was looking like a hanging rag, the Super Sailors were directed to the front of our zodiac in an attempt to shelter the Beach Boys from the freezing spray on the way back to shore.
After we thanked the crabbers for helping our wayward boat and our rule breaking guests, the crab boat captain offered a departing remark after another almost endless stream of tobacco juice. “Those two,” the Captain’s thumb hooked toward the two shivering souls in the front of our inflatable. “Better keep ‘em a little closer to the beach next time.”
Tom Williams is a Marco Islander. He is the author of two books. “Lost and Found” and “Surrounded by Thunder—the Story of Darrell Loan and the Rocket men.” Both books are available on Kindle and Nook.