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Cautionary Tale II

Take this for what it is, I don't think there's really a moral to it. The story has been lightly fictionalized to protect the guilty.

Wealthy retired professional man and his wife get the yen to cruise down to Florida. They have zero experience with boating of any kind, but it looks easy enough, so they buy a multi-hundred thousand dollar custom power cat. They have it thoroughly serviced at a Pungo River boatyard and proceed south. Within a day, they get an urgent message that they are needed at home, so they put in to a boatyard up the Bay River and get ready to fly home for what they think will be a couple of weeks. In fact, the issue takes six months to resolve.

With that out of the way, they return to the Bay River boatyard. While they were gone, a breaker tripped on the shore power. That's a problem, because they left the refrigerator and freezer running with things in them. But they had solar panels that might have seen them through, except a worker on board the boat accidentally cut the feed. The batteries are flat dead.

Because they are wealthy and only want the best, they feed their cat a special diet of ground up whole birds - feathers, guts and all - that they get shipped to them on dry ice and keep in the freezer until feeding time, when they take it out and microwave it for the cat. They thought they left about a pound of it, but actually it was closer to twenty-five pounds. Plus the rib-eyes, ice cream, etc. When they open the freezer, all this has liquefied and comes oozing and flowing out. They have the freezer removed from the boat and sent to the landfill, and buy a new one.

After a few days, they are ready to go, but the boat builder is adamant that he wants them to go back to the Pungo River boatyard to have the engines serviced, since they have been sitting on the hard for six months. They manage to get a battery charged enough to start the engines, and head north.

After a few miles, an alarm goes off and the anti-fire foaming agent smothers one of the engines. They continue on the other engine. A few miles on, the alarm goes off again and that's it for engine two.

They don't have TowboatUS or Seatow, so it takes some hours to make arrangements for the over $1,000 tow. Eventually they get back to the Pungo River boatyard and borrow the loaner car to drive back to Bay River and get their car. When they arrive, they realize they left the key to their car on the boat. So they start back to Pungo River, but in a few miles the loaner car dies.

The yard owner agrees to drive up there in a truck to retrieve the car and get them back to the boatyard. He can't really just drop the mast he's stepping and dash off to the rescue, so by the time he finishes his job, goes and gets the truck and heads down the road, the boat owners are near hysterical. They call friends in the yard, who offer to get the key off the boat and bring it to them, take them to the Bay River yard and then the yard owner can pick up the loaner at his convenience. Unfortunately the boat is locked - but the boat owner thinks the key is on a table next to a portlight, and tells friend to cut the screen and reach in and get the key. In truth, the key is not on the table, it is on the cabin sole, but friend fashions a duct tape wad on a stick and is able to retrieve the key.

Friends heads down the road and get to the disabled car about the same time as the yard owner. So yard owner loads up the loaner and heads back to the yard, while friends takes the owners on to the Bay River yard to get their car. The owners' story ends there, but friends run into another sailor acquaintance there who is in the throes of an emotional breakdown. They take him home with them, where he keeps them up most of the night wailing and carrying on. As friends point out, "no good deed goes unpunished." The End.

Text by Paul Clayton.

Copyright © 2023 Paul M. Clayton