I was raised and I still live on Cape Cod. You can't do that without having some experience with boats. I still remember the excitement of owning my first boat. It was a 24' Marblehead with a 100 horsepower Lathrop inboard engine. An old wooden boat, it needed a lot of work before it could go in the water, but I was up to the task.
The first thing I needed to do was to replace all of the caulking so it wouldn't leak. Hours of chiseling out the old caulk and replacing it with new caulk was how I spent my nights and weekends. Strip off the old paint, give it a new paint job, have a mechanic check out the engine and we're ready to put it in the water. All of that only took two years. OK, I'm not fast, but I am thorough.
We put the boat in the water at a local marina and I stay with it faithfully, waiting for the new caulking to swell so the leaks will stop. After several hours of bailing, the wood had finally swelled enough that I could find no new leaks. Finally, I'm going to take my boat out for the first time tomorrow!
The next day, I arrive at the marina and head to the dock where my boat is tied up. Approaching the dock, I don't see my boat. Could someone have possibly stolen my wooden beauty? Nay, nay. As I got closer, I could see the roof of the cabin – underwater. Apparently, my caulking was not as professional as I had hoped. A seam popped, the boat filled with water and there it was, sitting on the bottom. I sold it for salvage.
My next boat was a gorgeous 26' ChrisCraft with twin inboard/outboards. I bought it from a friend who owned a boat storage place. The owner hadn't paid his storage bill for several years and he offered it to me for the balance owed - $1,300. At last, I have my very own boat!
First trip out, the boat's running beautifully, it's a fine day and I'm going bass fishing. Half a tank of gas is not a problem because I'm not going to out very long. I'm leaving Bass River and heading to Horseshoe Shoals to get my dinner when the boat just stops. I can't get it started and I can't figure out what's wrong. Now, I'm no mechanic but I know a few things, none of which worked. Pulling my hair out, the only thing I can think of is to check the gas. Empty. But the fuel gauge says I have a half a tank? Never occurred to me that fuel gauges can break. I had more adventures with this boat but you get the idea.
I sell my boats and swear I'll never buy another one. Instead, I buy a canoe. I add a motor mount and an electric trolling motor. With a car battery, I can troll for about 2 hours before the battery runs out. Good enough. I buy three more batteries and I'm good for a day in Barnstable Harbor. I'm not very fast, mind you, but who cares, I've got all day. For years, this worked perfectly.
Fast forward to 2014. I see an ad on Craigslist for a 17' Carolina Skiff with a 50 hp Johnson and trailer. No, don't do it. You don't need a boat. You have a kayak. I'll just go look at it, what can it hurt.
A few hours later, I'm trailering my new boat home, you know, the one I swore I'd never buy? I get it home and the trailer lights aren't working. That's ok, I can fix that. I did but the new lights were hanging from the trailer with rubber bands. (Remember, I'm not a mechanic). I drop the boat in the water and head to the boat trailer company to have them fix the lights. Bad move. The trailer is rusting out, the wheels are about to fall off and it's not worth fixing the lights. It was my lucky day though because they were having a sale just for me and could give me a brandy new trailer for only $1,400. What luck, huh?
When I got back to pull the boat out of the water, my fabulous Louise (about whom you'll hear much more in future blogs) had turned on the bilge pump to get rid of the water in the boat. We get the boat home and leave it until the next boating adventure. Neither of us realized the bilge pump was still on. Since there was no water in the boat, it made no noise because it wasn't pumping.
After a few days of rain and the bilge pump happily pumping away, we take the boat to Hyannis for a little tour. We get the boat to the dock and jump in to start it up. Nothing. The battery was completely drained. Fortunately, the guy on a boat next to me had a charging kit and got enough juice in the battery so we could take off. And that's what we did so I could show Hyannisport to Louise from the water.
On the return trip, the engine died. Yes, I checked the gas and we have plenty. I try to turn it over but the engine's not having it. I pull the cover and check the connections. Everything seems perfect. I try once more to start it and the battery dies. OK, then. Toss out the anchor and call Sea Tow. Man, I hate doing that. It's like an admission of my failure as an Alpha Male.
Sea Tow arrives and asks for my membership card. Well, you see, I was going to join but this was just a test run and I didn't think I'd need a membership until I actually started really using the boat. No problem, he said, that'll be $900.00. Seriously? Well, let me explain. When you're riding an anchor and the only way home is tied up next to you and says he needs $900.00 to bring you home safely, you pay him the damn $900.00!
After we get home, I'm still trying to figure out why it won't start. I charge the battery and go over everything carefully. The fuel line had become disconnected where it enters the engine. The clip didn't work. I got a new clip, plugged it in and the old baby started right up.
That's it. No more boats. I've never had good luck with them and I'm not sure I enjoy boating all that much anyway. I do like fishing though. I still have the skiff. It's sitting in the driveway right now and I've been trying to start it for two days. It does start but won't run for more than a few seconds. I may just leave it in the driveway and take some selfies of me just sitting in it.
Did I tell you I bought a house in Florida on a canal? No? Well, it makes no sense to own a house on a canal with a 7,500 lb. boat lift and not have a boat, right? Say hello to my 20' pontoon boat with a 70 hp Yamaha. Boy, I sure hope it starts.
In conclusion, I have decided that the best way to own a boat is to have a friend who owns a boat and lets you use it.