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The Ghost of 1983

“In the Slip With Nary a Scratch.”

Captain George Strate of the Mayport Princess is one of my all time heroes. He whips the 68 foot Princess between a cruise ship, and a shrimp boat with a few feet to spare, and then parks her crosswise, on a dime, with all kinds of screaming tide. No bow thrusters, nothing.

I once watched Ray Rosher park the Miss Costa in a marina he'd never been in before, jockeying with the current while talking a mile a minute with his cell phone in his hand.

Nope, that's never gonna happen to me. I remember the spring 1983. It was the first time I ever tried to back a 31 Bertram in a slip at the Northeast Florida Marlin Club dock. It was a club meeting night, and I had let it be known I was on the way in with a nice yellowfin tuna and a box of big mahi.

Suddenly I realized there was 50 something people around my slip. How did the same slip I left from that morning get so skinny? You guessed it. I missed. Not once, not twice, but three times. Somewhere around the bars and honky tonks of St. A the good old boys are still laughing.

It seems the ghost of 1983 visits me every time we change marinas in the Bahamas, but never more than last weekend. The new Dos Amigos IV was ready to travel from Jupiter to Saint Augustine. Driving her home was a rush! I was gliding along with a 3 to 5 feet beam sea, making 28 knots while I munched on Pistachios, and sipped ice tea. I was about 10 miles south of Saint Augustine when I suddenly realized I had never stuck a 47 foot boat in the slip I had parked the 35 foot Dos Amigos III in a thousand times.

There he was. The ghost of that night long ago was sitting next to me doubled over laughing. “You're gonna set the record for property damage this time slick.” Undaunted I picked up the VHF and asked the question I should have asked a month ago. The dockmaster answered with his usual sarcastic tone. "Well I don't know if she'll fit or not, but when you make your pivot we're both gonna find out really fast."

Well, the ghost was wrong. I did make it. I was shaking, but I didn't even kiss a piling. But the next time you pull a big sportfisherman into a new marina with a screaming tide without ever hanging up the phone or getting nervous, just know, we have nothing in common.

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