In 1982, my father Clyde retired and bought his last boat and this time he really got it right. It was a 10 year old Pearson 35. If you know anything about Pearson, you know that they have always made very solid boats; boats ideally suited for Buzzards Bay’s wind and sea.
I think different P35’s were rigged differently and Aquarius sported a very large mainsail. In fact, we had to put the first furl in just to balance the helm on a typical day on Buzzards Bay.
This was also the first boat that Mrs. Horne sailed from day one. Although my parents were 30 years older, we really enjoyed many overnight cruises together around Buzzards Bay.
Aquarius sported an Atomic 4 inboard, but her power was very flaky. The first few years some guy named Bill “Fairweather” maintained the engine. He was a mechanical disaster and many a cruise was scrubbed when the engine died.
Eventually, my mechanically gifted brother Barry took over as “Chief Engineer” and I can’t remember another failure after that.
The steady flow of engine failures provided a perfect platform for my father to teach me how to roll with the punches while boating.
The fact is, a 10 year old ocean boat is a terribly unfit platform for both mechanical and electrical systems. The sea air and water are corrosive to every wire, screw, nut and bolt. These components all weaken over time and with Buzzards Bay’s constant pounding of 2-3 foot chop, it’s not a matter of if, but when they’ll fail.
The point is, unless you have cash required to buy a brand new high end boat every few years, system failures go along with boating like Gin & Tonic.
We were heading toward the treacherous currents of Woods Hole for our big 3 day vacation to Nantucket when the Atomic 4 failed to start. About the same time, the wind also died and with that Nantucket was no longer an option.
Clyde was unfazed; he had me drop the anchor and strap the inflatable to the stern quarter and start the 3 HP kicker. This was enough to push us along at 2-3 knots and get us back to Mattapoisett by cocktail hour.
Clyde was determined to make the most of our big vacation and chomping on his cigar, he concocted a new plan. Rather than heading home dejected, we’d go to the Town Pier in Mattapoisett Village for the night.
Right after we tied up, Clyde then found a pay phone, chewed out Fairweather and shamed him into coming over right away to fix he engine. While he worked, we walked to town and enjoyed a great dinner at the old Mattapoisett Inn.
The next morning we were off again and made landfall in Nantucket by 2:00 PM where we enjoyed a precious vacation never giving a second thought to our flaky Atomic 4.
The four of us weathered and savored many adventures together aboard Aquarius. To a certain extent, I think the ease with which Aquarius handled everything the sea threw at her and the way Clyde effortlessly shrugged off adversity, made me forget just how treacherous Buzzards Bay could be.
This is not a fashion show!
Probably the scariest moment came one day as we were making way from Vineyard Haven to Cuttyhunk via the Atlantic Ocean side of the Elizabethan Islands. It was about a 5 hour trip and we were about halfway when the skies turned gray and the sea suddenly calmed.
All of a sudden I spotted a wall of heavy rain heading our way and told everyone to get on their rain gear. As Clyde and Susan were debating the most attractive combinations of coats and pants, a bolt of lightening hit the water about a quarter of a mile off the bow.
“Screw the fashion show, get up here and drop the sails, we’re about to get slammed!” I screamed. They did, but we still had sails up when the 50 knot wind hit us. Of course, we persevered and the whole experience made the Jack Daniels in Cuttyhunk taste all the sweeter.
Aquarius was a great boat and I think she taught me the value of a well built boat. More importantly, it was the perfect platform for Clyde to teach me how to deal with life’s curve balls.