A Hull in the Water
Seldom in one’s life does a decision become so egregious to their mood on a regular basis as that one to purchase a boat!
Back around Father’s Day of ’95, I (we) bought one to throw our excess money at. I should have been satisfied with just a nice card and a smootchie.
As the adages came forth over the years, I filed them away in the creel of my mind: “A boat is a hole in the water you throw money into,” “The second happiest day of a boat owner’s life is when he sells it” (ha, ha, ha), “The cheapest part of owning a boat is the day you buy it, after that, things start getting expensive” (hardy-har-har), and here’s my personal fave, “B.O.A.T. stands for Break Out Another Thousand” (laughter all around).
That first year, we put ‘er in lakes Pend Oreille (7 miles east) and Couer d’Alene (26 miles south) a total of seven times, an average of almost $700 per dip, accounting for the price of the boat and the needed accoutrements. And my recent re-acquaintance with the boating world cost a mere 1,200 tiny happy clams. Seven hundred adjusted for almost two decades of inflation, I guess, makes twelve hundred seem almost reasonable for a good day on the water, even though all we caught were a bull trout (released) and several bunches of Eurasian Milfoil (also released).
Our last excursion, late that first summer, I hit a log I didn’t see for the sunset lighting my big foolish grin, which put our little dinghy in dry dock until this July. Almost on a daily basis, over these almost two decades, I’ve thought about this purchase as I cover it and re-cover it through snow and rain and wind, and trying in vain to keep the squirrels and yellow jackets out. I’ve easily spent enough on tarps to have already built a nice, permanent boat-port when I had the back and shoulders for it.
More than that, though, is that daily poke at the mood, of something going to waste yet too costly to be truly pleasurable but still worthy of your attention.
Until a very recent prodding by the other half of “we,” that boat sat serenely unmolested and somewhat protected, moss growing on the north side. My first reaction to this poke was to drag the thing off the trailer and into the garden where it could become a “hull in the water we could plant our garlic in,” creating a whole new adage to play with and a different story here, for sure.
But as proddings eventually go, that one golden definition of B.O.A.T. rang out loudest and truest as I commenced to resurrect our little floatie from its lounging position to one of seaworthiness. After 19 years of rest and relaxation (on the boat’s part), this was no walk in the park. The walkin’ I did was into places that happily sell nautical merchandise to clueless “Captains of their own vessels” like me. Any walkin’ in the park was simply to relax my butt muscles afterward.
This is how the resurrection has been going.
If horses were expenses (instead of just expensive), the first one in this parade would be when I went to move the boat to within striking distance of tools, power, more tools, a reasonably flat surface to play on and a close proximity to nice, cold beer. To do this, I had to go to town and get a slide-in hitch and ball to just get started. First expense - $10, “Easy Peazy!” Had I known what that ten-spot was leading to, I’d have lit it afire and walked away, parted out the running gear and rolling stock and been happy as all get-out to have (presumably) the only 16’ tri-hulled fiberglass garlic bed in Bonner County. I may do this yet and really piss off some gophers.
Once I got things coupled up, it all started coming back to me. ”This bitch is heavy!” Noting the hubs on the trailer were flush with ground level, I broke out a shovel and dug a couple of nice long inclines exposing the mind blowing news that the tires were not at all aired up. Back to town for some air. Not really, I have a compressor but lacked a working air gauge and an electrical pigtail appropriate for my newer pickup anyway, so another ten-spot went up in smoke (metaphorically). Still easy peazy but my humor was getting an edge on.
Once in the driveway, my project started to take shape under close scrutiny. That shape being less like a pleasure craft and more like an 800-pound gorilla on a skateboard.
Wiring cried out first. To save my knees for later and for future reference, I took a picture of the plug-in under my tailgate, compared it to the wad of duct-tape and wire ends wrapped around the trailer tongue and decided I needed to go back to town and another walk in the park, maybe two.
Two days of rolling around in the gravel, three skinned knuckles, some rather harsh adjectives, several intimate conversations with ants, stink bugs and my nosy cat, 55 bucks for the tail light kit and a twelve-pack later, I still had no lights or signals under my fantail. “Bun-of-a-sitch”, I cried as my honey walked past with an armload of garden produce. Sensing a defeatist attitude forming and with it the possibility that I might try to cut and run, she reminded me that I have friends with talents far beyond my own abilities, wiring in particular.
An hour and a half later, my awesome friend Ron had me grinning from lobe to lobe with lights and working signals under my nautical nightmare! If I had his talent and he had a feather up his butt, we’d both be tickled and he’d still be awesome!
Now legal to roam the open road in search of a boat mechanic willing to play with two antique Mercury outboards as well as entertaining some of my silly questions and concerns, like the depth of my pockets in relation to the scope of my project, I pulled our pride and joy back home. Elated as I was, I couldn’t help but notice the fact that I couldn’t see a damn thing in my mirrors other than my pride and joy. Another trip into town fetched a pair of mirror extensions and a miscellany of special marine greases, guns and spare parts, lubricating Mr. O’Reilly’s till with another $100.
Now for the last item on legality, I called my insurance handler and added my flagship to the current line-up, $161 worth.
Ready for the serious stuff, I headed for Sagle Marine Service. I’d warned them a few days in advance of an impending migraine and they were on point by not being around when I got there, boat in tow. A few hours of well-hidden nonchalance paid off with their unsuspecting return and my surprise appearance from behind the building with a 44-year-old olive over antique white relic of yesteryear. After I got done jabbering at length about things relevant to me only, there was only one question remaining of any real relevance, that being the same one Samuel L. Jackson keeps asking on TV, “What’s in YOUR wallet?”
Four days later, the answer was $443. But I did have a new battery, horn, running lights, new impeller and a ‘thumbs up’ on the trolling motor but a dire prediction about the 80 horse ‘main screw’ to mull over in my sleep. “That log you found in ’95 broke the shaft and the way the crank is wobbling around like a drunken sailor, well, let’s just say this unit has seen its last good wake,” said Frank as Loretta took my check and smiled empathically.
When I broke this news to my honey, the other and better half of “we,” she simply put in, along with a big sweet smile, “So let’s take it down to the lake this weekend! Hey, even better, let’s go watch the fireworks from our boat tomorrow night in Bayview!”
“You have any idea how insane it would be to pull our boat out of the water in the dark on a fourth of July after almost twenty years of not even doing it in the daylight?” I replied, eyebrows tickling the end of my nose.
“You worry about EVERYTHING!” she implied with her patent expression and said as much.
“We’ll see,” sighed I, hoping to get fed before I tripped once again over my own two lips.
In the morning, shortly after waffles, I rigged up a “run tank” out of an old olive oil barrel, slipped it in under the trolling motor, filled it full of water and proceeded to see if all systems were “go”.
They didn’t “go” anywhere. Just sputtered, coughed and ground on the battery. It wasn’t getting fuel, a fact that was aromatically self-evident. Turns out, after much “intense flatulence in a round about way” (fartin’ around in a sustained and earnest manner), the cause turned out to be a corroded dip tube screen rectified only by the purchase of a new fuel line, primer bulb and six gallon tank because the old stuff was, well, OLD!
I started to worry again, breathing through my eyebrows as it were. I like to be prepared whenever I’m out in the middle of 95,000 acres of open water up to 1,150 feet deep and this got me to purchase even more stuff for contingencies unforeseen. Tools and supplies expressly for the boat and to remain there and not be somewheres else when needed: pliers (three types), multi driver, hose, clamps, o-rings, snap ties, tape, extra plugs, crescent wrenches, reserve fuel tank, tow rope, floating lantern, fire extinguisher, distress flag, first-aid kit, paddles, bucket bailer, gloves, tool box (not nearly big enough) and a “For Sale” sign (for emergencies or sanity, whichever comes first).
By the time this resurrection walked across the waters of Idlewilde Bay on July 13th, it had set us back another thousand point two. This I kept to myself for at least three and a half minutes, those damn eyebrows giving me away again.
But it was more fun than a busted snow shovel and reunited us with the reason we bought it so long ago. To enjoy the water from on it, not just next to it. Plus, we like to pretend we’re fishing, according to what our fish stringer thinks anyway. I tend to think of it as sight seeing, daydreaming, observing and thinking (or not even) while waving a pole in the clean mountain air.
One thing’s for sure, the giddiness felt when buying a boat is by no means the same as that experienced when you are writing out a bill of sale on it. One is the product of and the solution to a short-term mid-life urge, the other is the feeling one gets when stopping a hemorrhage with a meat cleaver (yuk, yuk, yuk).