We reach a narrow channel, and Bud slows to a prudent 70 mph. Gazing out at the horizon, it looks like we're in the wide-open ocean, but the GPS shows that the water outside the channel is only two feet deep. This fact is foremost on my mind when Bud steps aside and hands me the wheel. I fear I may have overstated my boat experience to him, because my résumé does not include "keeping 46-foot boat within tight channel at 70 mph." Well, now it does.
Navigating a boat at 70 mph is a different ball game than it is at, say, 30 mph. One minute, a set of channel markers looks like twigs in the distance. Then they morph into goalposts, and then you're sailing through, a $1.3-million football that better not be wide right. The good thing is, the boat reacts slowly. The bad thing is, the boat reacts slowly. If you've lined up your approach properly, you're all set. If you have to swerve -- well, you'd better not, 'cause 14,300 pounds of Cigarette doesn't like to swerve.
Or bang a U-turn. Alabama Jack's is perched precariously on the edge of a narrow canal, so our final approach is at idle speed as Bud threads the Rider through the channel. At the dock, we face a conundrum: we have to turn around, but this waterway looks narrower than the length of the boat, and those two $6000 propellers would make poor rototillers. Somehow, Bud manages to make a twenty-point turn without grounding the props or sending the bow across the bar at Alabama Jack's. I step onto the dock thirty-eight minutes after we left, and Lorio is nowhere in sight. Braver predicted that the boat would win this segment but that the car would make up time farther down the route. We'll see about that.