Skip to main content

Growing up on the wide expanse of the lower Potomac River, just off the Chesapeake Bay, I learned to row before I could read. My oars and my arms took me around the local bays and up the tributaries, allowing me to learn about boats and boating at a safe, leisurely pace.

Then came my first motor, a 3-horsepower Johnson Sea-Horse. It relieved my biceps, but frankly, it didn’t push the boat much faster than my oars could during a spirited sprint. Such muscular bursts were unsustainable, though, so the little white outboard extended my range considerably. I guess you could say it was the genesis of my passagemaking.

Next came a 9.9 and I discovered that the flat-bottomed Bay-built rowboat would plane. This speed became my drug of choice—and it was just as addictive as the chemical narcotic with the same name. As with any drug, it always left me wanting more: a 14-foot aluminum Crestliner with 35 horsepower, a 16-footer with 100 horsepower, an 18-footer with a metal-flake hull and 200 horses. Rowing was history.

My love of boats eventually led to a degree in naval architecture and marine engineering, and a rewarding career in the marine industry followed. With it came opportunities to fuel my addiction aboard ever larger and faster boats. One day in Italy, I headed out into the Mediterranean aboard the 118-foot WallyPower, a stealthy floating missile that employed three TF50 gas turbines, totaling 16,800 horsepower and burning about 1,000 gallons per hour to achieve a top speed of 65 knots.

It was clearly time for an intervention. A friend in Florida decided to help me kick my habit, so I joined him aboard his vintage Mainship 34 Mk I, propelled at 8 knots by a single Perkins diesel. I still remember that first trip. I was an addict going through detox, mind racing, body fidgeting and impatient beyond measure. My friend continued to help with my recovery. The second trip was better, but it was not until the third trip that I was able to come full circle, back to my rowing-speed days, and find a renewed appreciation of the joys of an easier pace.

Over the following years, my recovery continued in the form of more passagemaking aboard a variety of vessels large and small. While each trip helped hone my appreciation for the slow lane, the key word here is recovery, not cure. Our current family boat tops out under 10 knots and its single diesel goes a long way on a single gallon of fuel, but to be honest, I can’t make any promises as to what the next purchase will be.

When Bill Parlatore, the founding editor of Passagemaker, wrote in the inaugural issue 23 years ago, he acknowledged the wide variety of boats and cruising destinations available.

“What is remarkable about all this diversity in thinking is that a fairly common theme transcends the differences between boats, cruising plans and owners,” Bill noted. “It is the trawler lifestyle that binds together all these interests. As a whole, the lifestyle we enjoy is about quality of life, self-sufficiency, economy of operation, modern conveniences, cruising capability and true comfort aboard.”

Specifically addressing the topic of speed, he continued, “We tend to enjoy the voyage as much as the destination. Much like turtles, we may travel a slower pace, but are content knowing that no matter where we end up, we are already home.”

I feel better, knowing that even Bill hedged a bit, inserting “may” into that last sentence.