Recreation: The Instant Mariners

No one in his right mind would climb into an airplane for the first time and try to solo. Hardly anyone over the age of 16 would expect to hop in a car and go off without knowing how to drive. But put a man in a power boat and he becomes the instant mariner. He requires neither operator's license nor the barest acquaintance with navigation or mechanics. All he has to do is punch the starter button and take off, trusting to God and the U.S. Coast Guard.

At last count, some 26 million Americans were going down to...