Marcophiles: Smooth sailing tips for ‘mature’ boaters

Awe, how cute, a white pelican and a Canada goose getting acquainted on Mackle Park Lake. But wait, are they animated or wooden? Chris Curle / Eagle Correspondent

Awe, how cute, a white pelican and a Canada goose getting acquainted on Mackle Park Lake. But wait, are they animated or wooden? Chris Curle / Eagle Correspondent

We qualify as “mature” but we’re not sure we can claim to be boaters. We have no snazzy Sea-Doo, no super sailboat, no sexy Stingray, not even a quaint kayak.

But we’re hooked on easy-going, recreational putt-putting around close-in waters with our slightly creaky, 18-year-old Godfrey Hurricane deck boat.

Some might say it’s more deck than boat, but it is well-maintained, thanks to Intercoastal Marine Service, whose owners probably have considered opening a small satellite office on our dock to save time.

As our pleasant pleasure vessel ages, so do we of course. And here’s a plus: We and a lot of other seasoned islanders have a chance to get useful information about making fun on the water safe, whether your boat is a spirited, like-new model or a spry, wily veteran of Marco’s waters.

The expert on seniors and boating is Jim Eastman, author of “The Book for Senior Boaters,” hailed as “informative, eye-opening and a real wake-up call, on point and entertaining.”

Jim was in the US Coast Guard and its reserve component as well. He has the cred to tell us what we senior boaters need to know.

The first thing to confront, in our opinion, educated by Eastman, is to get over ourselves. As Jim puts it: “Millions of senior boaters don’t want to admit they are starting to get aging traits, including forgetfulness, slower learning and retention, slower hand-eye coordination, changing vision, less flexibility, diminished hearing, more fatigue, diminished agility, increased agitation, lower alcohol tolerance and reduced strength.”

If that list makes you want to lie down and take a nap, don’t, because Jim has insights to share.

For fuzzy memory, he says we should start using notes, reminders of important things regarding boating.

For shower hand-eye coordination, “Riding a bike gives you physical and cardiovascular exercise; your mind is busy and you have to have mind-hand coordination not to run into a car or off the curb.

“If you have hand-eye problems, don’t bring the boat into the dock. You might be able to operate it on the water but when you want to dock, if you don’t have the ability to bring it in safely, have someone help you.

“If your hearing is going, you have to be alert and aware. So have someone with you to help alert you and to keep lookout.

“Every senior boater should have a buddy, a spouse or friend or crew member. You have to have someone in case of an emergency or in case you have an aging trait that doesn’t allow you to operate the boat like you used to.”

Jim has lots more good advice in his book, which is available via his website:

We’ll have more from Jim Eastman about senior boating in an upcoming column, plus information about the primary organization here for people who are or want to be sailors and power boaters.

Bird life at Mackle worth a chuckle

A column or so ago we showed you a photo of two of the “guests” on Mackle Park Lake – the decoy Canada geese, installed by the island’s laser model sailboat club to keep away “nuisance” critters, primarily Muscovy ducks.

We thought those decoys looked realistic and discovered that some visitors to Marco think they are. We chuckled at that, but now the laugh is on us.

On a recent revisit to the lake, we saw what appeared to be a white pelican decoy, floating in the lake, motionless but for the movement of some breeze-caused ripples on the water.

The decoy pelican was realistic, but lost some of its credibility when it drifted directly toward and collided softly with one of the Canada geese decoys.

After our round-the-lake walk, we saw that the pelican decoy had moved to the mudbank. We sauntered down the grassy slope for a close-up look. At the decoy. Then it winked at us.

It was a real white pelican, enjoying a day on the water, seemingly bored after discovering that its would-be pal the Canada goose was made of wood. The only other live birdlife in sight was a gaggle of Muscovy ducks and ducklings, keeping a low profile under a nearby shade tree, ignoring the geese decoys and the alive, lonely white pelican.

Chris Curle is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC-TV stations in Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Houston. E-mail

Don is a former ABC News correspondent and bureau chief and a former news anchor for CNN and ABC-TV, in Atlanta. His Farmer File column appears Fridays in the Naples Daily News. E-mail:

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