Issue: August 2004
Rocket On

Well, go ahead, sue me. Write me frothing letters. But I'm going to say it: There is no substitute for cubic inches. I went 112 miles per hour on the Bay in a 46-foot, 2400-hp, snarling sliver of fiberglass called a Cigarette, and yes, I had a rocking good time.

Here's the thing, though, about going 112 miles per hour in a boat: It makes your hair hurt. I didn't expect this. Follicle stress was the one danger I had not thought about before my first-ever poker run-the one most appropriately named Thunder on the Bay. I had given thorough and lurid consideration to other things, like involuntary ejection from the vessel, high-speed collision with another boat, or, for that matter, a gnat. Worst of all, I imagined someone from my sailing club actually seeing me. And there was the waiver I had to sign, to wit: "Passenger hereby acknowledges that he/she is aware of all potential risks and dangers . . . and, notwithstanding that knowledge, desires to ride on the Cigarette watercraft and assume any and all risk of harm, loss or damages of any kind to his/her person, estate or property . . . "Et cetera, et cetera. I signed it.

But as for the hair, I didn't even think about it until another passenger in our boat, Adrienne Gruz-clearly a pro at this sort of thing-pulled off her T-shirt to reveal her bikini, strapped on her inflatable lifejacket, and last but not least briskly yanked her long hair into a no-nonsense ponytail. "Hang on,"she grinned, and crouched like a sprinter about to take off, hands gripping the rail on the back of the driver's seat, bare feet planted firmly in the plush blue carpet on the sole.

I hung on. I wasn't scared, exactly. The gearhead in me was curious just how fast we would go, what it would feel and sound like. (Like a horizontal shuttle launch, that's what it felt and sounded like.) The pilot of our rocket ship was Bill Proctor, who owns Offshore Performance in Grasonville, Md. Low-key, built like a bear, his driving was a study in focus and concentration. He has owned one Cigarette or another since the late 1980s, and after he sold his electrical contracting business, he decided to work on and sell the boats he so admired. "I put up a building and said if it doesn't work out I'll make it my toy store."It has worked out. The 46 we were running was the fastest of its type from the factory so far, he told me. "In excess of a hundred twenty miles an hour. First time I took it out I did a hundred seventeen point five."Proctor had been meticulously tweaking the $62,000 engines and running gear, not unlike a sailboat racer with a new ride. "It'll take three months to do this,"he said. "I only do one thing at a time 'cause you never know how you'll go."

Oh, we went fine; from Kent Narrows to North East in about eight seconds, not counting card stops at Hart-Miller Island and Still Pond. We hit 106 at one point, but it wasn't until the run home that Proctor let her really stretch out as we dueled down the Bay with about three other boats, easily running at 110 mph plus for miles. I couldn't stop laughing and asking him to go faster. He grinned at me and explained my situation. "You go ninety miles an hour, you wanna go ninety-five."Or a hundred. Even if it does take three days to get your hair combed.