I am awakened by Mac McAnally’s “Coast of Carolina” drifting from my iPhone alarm. I click on the weather radio and listen: The weather will be favorable for today’s travels. I roll out of my bunk and start the coffee. At 5:25 a.m., I walk past my crewman’s door, “We are a go!” is all I need to say on my way to the engine room. I check the 30-plus gauges involved with the engines, then turn on pumps and fans. I meet my mate at the coffee pot; not much is said between us. We both have jobs to do, and we head in different directions to do them.
The generator room is first on my agenda. I crank up both generators, which allows us to run all ship systems while underway. This modest 85-foot motor yacht has all the accommodations a small resort may have. My mate starts cooking breakfast for our guests. The clock passes 6:00 a.m., and the first guest emerges looking for coffee. I head to the upper deck to make it ready for the day. With the coffee completed and with my day going smoothly, I grab my cup and go find a quiet place to read pertinent emails. This is my five minutes to myself as I get a quick picture of the sunrise. Then I go below to shower and get my uniform on. Just 10 minutes later, I am back up on deck with the engines running.
I speak with the guests to explain what to expect during today’s travels. My mate and I use headsets to communicate during docking operations. This is a blind boat, meaning when I am at the helm, I cannot see the dock we are tied to. Crew communication is vital at this time. The mate unties the lines, and we ease away from the Isle of Palms Marina and head south.
It is 7:15 in the morning when a guest approaches me and says, “What a wonderful way to make a living … just driving a boat all day!” I smile and say it is more of a lifestyle than a job. My focus remains steady on navigating the waters that are at times less than the 6-feet, 6-inches of draft our vessel requires to operate, all while dodging crab pots and smaller boats that don’t require deep water but are often found in the dead center of the channel. We clear the Ben Sawyer Bridge by just a foot. We continue to make our way out between the forts and jetties.
Now on the open sea, I take my first deep breath since we left the dock. I turn on the autopilot and set the engines to a 16-knot cruise. I relinquish the helm to my mate then do an engine-room and deck walk-through to make sure everything is secure and ready to ride the 4- to 5-foot seas I expect to encounter today.
It is 9:00 a.m., and I am back in the wheelhouse checking our plotted course and calling out adjustments for the mate to enter in the autopilot. I place a call to the next two marinas we are scheduled for and confirm our arrival dates and power needs.
One guest comes up the steps and says the toilet isn’t flushing right. My mate says he has it and turns the helm back over to me. Minutes later, another guest says the air conditioner in his room isn’t cooling. I look over the top of my glasses at my mate who has just returned and say to him jokingly, “Typical day in the life of yachting.” First, I reset the AC’s control panel and get it running, then I proceed to repair the head. I clean up and return to the helm.
With the dolphins riding our bow, we move up past Cape Romain and Georgetown as we eat a sandwich for lunch. The first sign of land is an intermitted flash of light from the Oak Island, North Carolina lighthouse. As we get closer, I turn off the autopilot and line up on the channel to Southport, North Carolina. We call the marina upon approach and inform them we will need fuel and a pump out. Once this is completed, we move to our slip for the night.
As soon as the lines touch the dock, I am on the phone with the rental car company and making dinner reservations for our guests. It is now 4:30 in the afternoon and the guests are off the boat to tour the town. I check the engine room and start shutting down systems. On my way out of the engine room, I stop and grab dirty towels to start one of the five loads of laundry produced today. I head up to the dock office to fill out the paperwork and pay for the dockage and fuel. Now I spend about an hour updating my log and tracking down the rental car.
At 6:00 in the evening, the guests are returning to get ready for dinner out. I give them the reservation information and the keys to the rental car and head to my cabin for a moment. My mate is now playing bartender as I do more laundry. When the guests leave, we vacuum and dust the boat. With the boat squared away for the night, my mate emerges from below with a couple of sandwiches and chips. We sit on the back deck watching the sun set at 8:40 p.m. I will get a few pictures and post them on Facebook just to keep in contact with my friends and family.
So the day is done. Well, not the day’s work — just the daylight hours. It’s now time to shower and wash our uniforms. At 10:00 p.m., I am finishing ironing my white uniform shirts as the guests return from dinner. They laughingly ask how we enjoyed the night off since they weren’t aboard that night. My mate and I smile and reply we just took it easy and got a few things done around the boat.
By Mac Finch