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Why here in the first part of the sentence is the Past-Perfect used, if the hero realized something BEFORE the boat was on the water?

The first action in the past must be in the Past Perfect because it was BEFORE something happened.

Before the boat had been under way for ten minutes, I realized that Miss Bradley was a remarkable bore.

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    TRomano's answer below is a very imaginative way of explaining the use of the past perfect here. You might also try simply reversing the order of the clauses and using them as a Q and A: What did I realize? I realized that Miss Bradley was a remarkable bore. When did I realize this? Before the boat had been under way for ten minutes. In other words, I realized that Ms B. was a bore during that ten minutes in the past. – P. E. Dant Aug 20 '16 at 19:27
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This phrase

the boat had been underway for 10 minutes

establishes a point in time set in the past as looked back upon from another point also in the past, but further forward in time, the vantage point.

Boat took off.................!10-minute-mark..................................................![vantage point]vantage point

The word before establishes a time-span that ends prior to the 10-minute-mark (and starts when the boat gets underway)

Boat took off {.................}!10-minute -mark................................................![vantage point]vantage point

At some time within that span, the realization took place.

  • @P.E. Dant: StoneyB had already done something along these lines a while back. I do plan to make greater use of my newly acquired image-embedding skills. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 27 '16 at 15:43

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