Boating’s one of the few endeavors where a can-do spirit and a hands-on mentality serve us well and are, really, necessary to enjoying the sport. When you’re away from land and the steering goes, or a hose springs a leak, or the GPS quits and visibility closes down, there’s no “app for that.” Self-reliance both carries the day and keeps us connected to reality in a time when our existence seems to play out more and more in the shadow world of our computers, televisions and other devices with a screen. Boating, friends, remains totally real.
Dispiriting moments can accompany the reality. Even the handiest old salt gets pissed when a planned trip gets cancelled or delayed due to the vagaries of boat maintenance and operation. But most of us really have nothing to complain about.
In his book, Gib’s Odyssey, author Walter G. Bradley documents the cruise of Gib Peters, a man ravaged by the final stages of Lou Gehrig’s disease who decided to cruise his 29-foot Wellcraft from Key West to New York. Along the way, the trip is chock-full of the typical mechanical, electrical, and navigational challenges one would expect cruising the Intracoastal Waterway. The difference is that Gib Peters, weak and wasting away, deals with each and every pitfall with a can-do self-reliance that would put a Navy Seal to shame. He repairs motor mounts, extricates himself from sandbars and just keeps on going. The way he deals with a vendor reluctant to honor a warrantee is classic.
Peters died shortly after completing the cruise.
There are some mistakes in the book, of a type only we boaters would care about, such as Bradley’s referring to the Wellcraft’s gasoline engines as “V-8 Marine Diesels.” But after completing the read, I forgave these faux pas. Because the next time a piece of boating equipment goes on the fritz, I’ll be thinking of Gib Peters.
Gib’s Odyssey, 213 pages, available in hardcover, paperback and Kindle editions from amazon.com.