After two years of a stormy passage on land that included the financial failure of a legendary boat company, legal challenges, and three different owners of the Island Packet brand, the magnificent Flying Fish has finally been launched in Palmetto, Florida. The course ahead has never looked brighter.
A parable: Threatened by sub-aquatic predators, a flying fish instinctively leaves its element and becomes airborne. Once in flight, however, the trouble is multiplied. The flying fish that was driven skyward by pursuing mahi-mahi is now also being attacked from above by diving frigate birds. Survival for the flying fish is predicated on its ability to navigate the contours of the water until the path forward is clear sailing.
The new owners of Island Packet Yachts, Darrell and Leslie Allen, have provided that path forward, not only for Flying Fish but for the thousands of sailors who for decades have come to know and love this boat company. The Allens are sailors with a strong moral ethic, which is refreshing in these days of temporary corporate ownership. The Allens are in it for the long haul. For those of us who have invested our life’s savings, and will depend on our boats to carry us safely over rough water, that kind of commitment is priceless.
There are heroes and villains in every drama. The men and women at Island Packet who physically built, and then against all odds completed Flying Fish, are heroes. They will have my highest regard every time I set sail. The trade craft in the construction of this boat was flawless, even at a time when there was real concern that the workers at IPY might never see another paycheck. When I look at their spectacular woodwork in the interior of Flying Fish, or the meticulous mechanical systems they assembled, or the minute detail of finish work that they focused on this boat, I realize that their calling was to a higher purpose than simply an hourly wage.
So where does Flying Fish go from here? The sea trials and inspections are complete. Darrell Allen and his crew are addressing every item on the punch list with patience and extraordinary customer service. Flying Fish sails like a dream; in light air the boat speed is half of the apparent wind speed, and yet the boat is built solidly enough to cross any ocean.
Those distant oceans still beckon but there will be complications restarting the planning of a voyage that had been put on hold indefinitely while bankers and lawyers decided when—or if—Flying Fish would ever set sail.
But sail she does, and for now my next passage will be the 375-mile run from Tampa Bay to Miami for the Strictly Sail Miami Boat Show, which begins February 16. Come by to take a look at Flying Fish in Miami because after that there is no telling where she might be. I only know that I will be grateful to be at the helm for every mile that passes under her keel.