Editorial December 2007 Issue

Going Overboard With Remote Controls

Recently, I had the exercise of chasing my two sons, Ben and Jake, around one of the many fall boat shows that again left me penniless this year. The nice thing about having kids later in life is that you have the opportunity to see the world through their eyes and feel young again. (Many chiropractors have built lucrative careers around this phenomenon, I am certain.)

Being boys, they were instantly drawn to the aisles of electronics, and before long, both were fiddling with whatever gizmos they could get a hold of. Since tiny, wireless devices are the current rage, not only could they fondle a variety of gadgets, they could walk right off with them, which, of course, endeared them to the ever-watchful vendors.

Reflecting upon the possibility of an entirely wireless boat and my own bitter history with electronic devices, I was soon faced with a most disturbing vision: The Wireless
Family Cruise.

It begins harmlessly enough, as we merrily cast off the dock lines and head up the Intracoastal Waterway.

Me (at helm): Honey, can you bring up the remote mic for the VHF? The drawbridge is up ahead.

Theresa, my wife (from below): Do you remember where you put it?

Me: Forget it, just get the handheld VHF, instead.

Theresa: Itís not in its holder. Do you think the kids have it?

Splashing sound.

Son Ben (at stern rail): Uh-oh.

Son Jake (at stern, looking aft): I thought you said it would float.

Ben: No, only the new models. Dadís stuck in the Stone Age.

Me (resigned): Forget it Hon, weíll just go out the south cut. Bring up the wind and depth display.

Theresa: You mean the wireless one that works on solar power?

Me: Thatís it.

Theresa: Itís not in your bag. Hey! Do I hear anchor chain going out?

Me (to Ben): Whatís that thing in your hand?

Ben: A Gameboy?

Me: Thatís not a Gameboy, thatís the remote control for the windlass. Give me that. (Anchor chain rattles out. Boat lurches to a stop.)

Theresa (watching from main hatch with suspicion): Do you know how to work that thing?

Me: Iíll manage. These windlass remotes are pretty intuitive.

An hour passes as I wrestle with the windlass remote control.

Theresa: Maybe we should call tech support. Iíll get my cell phone.

Me: Go ahead, but I think I got it.

Theresa: (Down below, muttering as she dials.) I donít believe this.

Me: Forget it hon, the anchor is coming up! I figured it out.

Theresa: (Hangs up phone.) Great!

Me: Shoot. It stopped again.

Theresa: (Dialing.) Iíll call.

Me: Wait! Here, itís coming up!

Theresa: (Hangs up.) OK.

Me: Damn! Stopped again.

Theresa: (Muttering as she dials.) For heavenís sake.

Me: Coming up again!

Ben (to Jake, stretched out on foredeck): Pathetic arenít they?

Jake: Yeah. And they say they sailed before we came along. Sure . . . in their dreams.

Darrell Nicholson

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