Lumbering beyond the breakwalls of historic Key West Seaport, with a frisky zodiac acting as a bow thruster, Captain George Smith eased the throttles and brought his vesselís long bowsprit into the wind. As the schooner Western Union
slowed, the 20 or so guests helped the crew haul up the gaff-headed main and foresail. I admit, most guests were more concerned about keeping their drinks on an even keel than putting their backs into the job at hand. As the first mate gave orders to ease the peak halyard a bit and take up on the throat, the onboard musician broke into the shanty "Hard Away Joe," accompanied by his hammered dulcimer.
Of course I knew this was all orchestrated for the exploitation of the nautical touristoópaunchy captains one and all, clad in Hawaiian shirts and flips flopsóbut I confess, I am a sucker for this kind of thing. Wherever I travel I find myself sampling local craft, from rough-hewn dugout water taxis to top-heavy tour boats offering hokey harbor cruises. Even after a long delivery, within a day or two of landfall you can usually find me aboard something floating, getting my bearings and learning the lore. An old girlfriend couldnít believe that I once wanted to take the ferry across Japanís Inland Sea just days after wrapping up a four-month, 12,000-mile delivery.