Off the Hook

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As much as I lament living in my iPhone, there are times when it is indispensable. Consider this past Independence Day weekend. I got the call, or rather the text message, that I had been waiting on for two days. It was a photo of a 24-foot bowrider, a thumbs-up emoji and a short message.

“July 4th boat secured!” the text read, “and you’re the captain.”

My family and I were headed to the New
Jersey shore but had no definitive plans for the long holiday weekend. One of our more connected friends — she is an executive at Google — changed that with a few keystrokes.

Hers is a waterborne family; they spend a great deal of time in the warmer months stand-up paddleboarding, surfing, sailing small craft, swimming in the ocean and more. But they’ve yet to cross the threshold into powerboating.

Enter Boatsetter

She read about the company some time back in a business magazine and downloaded the app soon after. But, as we do, she then got busy with other things. Flash-forward to a few days before Independence Day, and minutes after visualizing a holiday spent on the water, she was deep in the direct messages of several boat owners (via the app, of course) whose listings met our needs.

As luck would have it, one boat was still available that fit four adults, three kids and one goldendoodle. The owner said he’d meet us at the gas dock of a local marina, and we’d be all set.

There was no description of the boat’s electronics package. Not a massive concern — I wasn’t expecting a pair of 24-inch multifunction displays at the helm — but after reading about significant shoaling in the area, I wanted to arrive prepared to navigate safely.

Again, thank the iPhone. I had GPS navigation in my pocket with both the Navionics and Wavve Boating apps waiting to be pressed into service.

Come July Fourth, we arrived at the marina right on time, as did the boat owner. After a safety inspection and assurances that we had enough PFDs on board for each passenger (we brought one for Charlie, the goldendoodle), plus flares and full fuel, we pushed off.

As we piloted through heavy holiday traffic and weaved in and out of no-wake zones, I explained to them what those zones were. I showed them the engine cutoff lanyard and taught them how important it is to wear it when running at speed. I went over some navigation rules: why it’s preferred for vessels to pass port to port on a river or buoyed channel, for example. And I cautioned them to keep a sharp eye out for the swarms of personal watercraft that seem to come from nowhere at 40 knots.

Everyone got involved. Our friend’s son piloted the boat adroitly in no-wake zones and at speed while his father looked on and gave pointers. When it came time to set the hook, I had them retrieve the anchor from its locker and tie us off once we were secured. We did the same thing when it was time to pull the anchor and head back to meet the boat’s owner at the appointed time.

Lunch on the hook near a popular shoaling anchorage off Townsends Inlet may have closed the deal. Everyone jumped off the swim platform into the cool water, and laughed as the current pulled them away from the stern. Afterward, they all followed my lead and jumped from the bow to take the free ride, floating back on the gentle tide.

The four-hour sortie was a massive success. And while it was my friend who arranged for our borrowed boat, I like to think that I was somewhat personally responsible for converting another new family to boating.

So responsible, in fact, that I’d be willing to wager that next year on Independence Day, I’ll be the one eating a sandwich in a comfortable, reclined position while the new boat owners, our friends, handle the navigation duties. 

This article was originally published in the August 2021 issue.


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