Capt. John Wampler, who some readers may recognize as the author of our Crew’s Mess column, completed in November his 200th delivery from New York to Florida. To get more insight into this slice of yacht captain life, we asked him a few questions.
I never tire of the north/south transit. Strategically, the AICW makes the delivery possible even in more than moderate weather; the only caveat being the New Jersey coastline, which can get “sporty” at times.
The diversity of personalities that I encounter between New York and Florida is always entertaining. And then there’s the fall colors in the Northeast, the mounds of steaming blue crabs on the Chesapeake, and the great southern barbecue in the Carolinas and Georgia. The trip is a delight of the senses.
I do have my favorite stops along this route for purely epicurean pleasures. St. Michaels, Md., for blue crabs. Cape May, N.J., for chicken wings at the C-View. The River Room in Georgetown, S.C.
And I love the fresh baked cinnamon-apple muffins delivered to the boat with the morning newspaper at the Golden Isles Marina in St. Simon, Ga.
My favorite Florida stopovers have to be Fernandina Beach and St. Augustine. Very quaint.
While I was coaching sailing for midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, I started a three-boat charter company out of Annapolis where we would winter the fleet in the Bahamas. After two and a half years, I signed on a 72-foot ketch with an English owner who had a no-limit attitude and told me to “take the boat anywhere in the Caribbean I might enjoy.”
When that boat sold, the intention was that he would buy a round-the-world class boat, which I would have the right of first refusal. So, I started marketing myself as a contract captain until said gentleman bought the next boat.
That was 27 years ago and he still hasn’t bought the boat. So I guess I’m a victim of my own design.
I really get a kick out of owner orientation and assisted deliveries. The yacht owners know much about asset acquisition but not so much about operation and preventative maintenance. The lesson doesn’t start with a boat ride – it starts in the bilge. I really enjoy describing the various systems and their maintenance.
In my youth, I was an engineer while serving in the U.S. Coast Guard. I am equally at home in the “crew sauna” as I am standing next to the owner/operator at the helm. There is great satisfaction when that “lightbulb” turns on and the owner is tuned in.
Soon after our conversation, Capt. Wampler left for Panama to deliver a 1968 64-foot Burger through the canal to Key West, his 14th transit.