I Do Not Deserve to Own a Boat

This story is about why we can’t have nice things.

Life at the cottage is awesome. We are on our 4th generation making memories on the lake. I felt it was time for an UPGRADE.

No more watching the other families tool around on their boats, we are doing well, we should get our own boat.

As part of this new commitment to being a ‘boat guy‘, I knew that essentially we were talking about a ‘fake it until you make it‘ situation.

I went back to my old reliable playbook; scavenge the internet for information until you kinda know what you are talking about.

Got a sweet used hoist for under $2,000. Done, no more taking the theoretical boat in and out of the water each day. In the off season, we can keep the boat in the garage to save on storage fees.

Now for the boat itself.

Checking Craigslist over and over again. Waited until late in the season. This is when boat people want to sell their boat rather than having to winterize/store it for another winter.

I knew I was looking for that sweet spot between not paying for a new boat, but still getting a reliable boat.

The main purpose was going to be tubing and the like, so let’s zero in on an ‘open bow’ speedboat, up to 20′ so as to still fit in the garage.

Thar She Blows, Ahab! 

A 19′ foot Four Winds Horizon 190 Bowrider. Older than we wanted at 1992, but well kept up. Under 200 hours on the motor. Bonus, it comes with an upgraded engine, a powerful 5.0L Cobra outdrive. Asking price with trailer $3,800.

I knew it was the boat, so no need for dickering. Full cash offer if you will deliver to me. (At this point I have no confidence in my ability to trailer the boat anywhere). He agrees and I am the proud owner of a new (to me) boat.

One must try to catch the seller at the right time in their lives. This guy’s son-n-law had just purchased a newer, bigger boat and his pride just could not abide. Consequently, I get a good deal.

They say the 2 best days in a boat owner’s life are the day he buys the boat, and the day he sells it.

I print out the entire owner’s manual and read it over. Reach back in my memory to remember all I can from my days in the Navy. Familiarize myself with the different on board systems. Talk everything out with my friend (also not yet an official boat guy). Watch You Tube videos on launching boats.


Captain’s Log; Year 1 Day 1

Panic at the launch. I temporarily forgot that the boat does, in fact, also go in reverse. I tried to drive forward and turn sharply to get out to the deep water. A minute later I hit a rock on the bottom SO HARD that it shears off all 4 fins of the prop.

Days later, hardened maritime men will tell me they have ‘never seen someone do that before’. A fin or 2 sure, but all of them?

The boat was running, but I was essentially turning a perfectly aerodynamic bullet-shaped cone in the water, generating absolutely no thrust whatsoever.

Total fun time: <3 minutes;

Cost; $250 for new prop, pretty easy to put on with borrowed special wrench.

We are able to salvage a good 6 days on the water after our Preposterous Prop Fin Fiasco.

I like to gauge worth in actual number terms so; If it costs $250 to rent the speedboat per day on the water, we have just enjoyed $1,500. We are 1/3 of the way to getting our money’s worth out of the boat.

Captain’s Log; Year 2, Day 1

After storing it away all winter, we are about to shove off for season 2 of Operation Endless Summer.

I have bought 2 new total ‘boat guy’ items to make life easier. A pair of rabbit ears (look it up landlubbers, it’s a boat thing) to test the engine while still on land to make sure it works. And a battery charger, cause the marine battery loses life just sitting around all winter.

Clean up the boat, charge the battery, test the engine. Ready for action boyos!

Boat runs great for the time it takes to bring it from the public launch to my hoist. Load the kids, the tow-able raft, the towels, we are tubing! Except that now the boat will not start.

I have rushed the pre-flight checklist and have allowed for a sub-optimal battery connection. The contact was so sketchy it has slagged the bolt on the battery. After wrestling off the cables, I now have a useless battery with no way to connect the black(negative) side.

Go to store buy new battery, $120 🙁

Scrub up crappy battery terminal on negative side with wire brush. Cheap and easy fix, hook up new battery.

Back in business mateys. Except that cheap and easy is too good to last, still bad connection equals dead boat and badly burned thumb touching way too hot negative side connection.

Have to flag down better boat with better man at the helm to tow us in.

Better father with better boat

It is the law of the sea that you must help a stranded boat. Shameful, yes… But.., no just pretty shameful actually.

Finally get act together and strip off old connector, go back to store and buy new fangled clamp style connector.

Total fun time on and off throughout day: 2 hours;

Cost; $130 for new battery and later, new connector.

We salvaged another 4 days or so of relatively problem free tubing that vacation. 2 years in and our price/fun/value calculation ($250 per day if we rented a speedboat) has us up to $ 2,500.

Now I knew there were going to be set backs. I had no idea what I was doing at first. But slowly, over time, I was gaining skill sets and more importantly; not making the same mistakes over and over again.

But Alas, the are plenty of Shiny new mistakes to be made.

Now Available; I Don’t Deserve A Boat – Part 2 – The Revenge of Davy Jones!




7 thoughts on “I Do Not Deserve to Own a Boat

  1. dude, that’s some funny stuff right there. i have a very good public defender friend who does all the same stuff but with sailboats. i helped him ready the boat to trailer an hour away to his house in the pouring rain. then i went and helped him “raise the mast.” that took most of a day and i never even got a boar ride out of it. then the water level in lake ontario was too high a year or two ago so the fixed docks were under water. no boating, only fees. it must be something about lawyers and boats. that guy in the picture sure looks like a swell dad with an operational boat.

    we can’t have nice things, either, if that makes you feel better.

  2. Exactly why after owning a half dozen old decrepit boats I bought a brand new one once I was financially independent and $20k was small change to me. I still buy used cars but old used boats are tar balls of trouble!

    • Maybe next time, I have already kicked around the whole ‘but a new boat won’t have these problems’

  3. This has to be my all time favorite post from you. Literally laughed out loud reading it. I bought a boat thinking since I lived 2 miles from the lake it would be nothing to go boating. I was wrong. It is essentially the same amount of pain whether you are 2 miles away from the lake or 20. It still requires hooking and unhooking the trailer and driving it to the launch site.

    It was a far different experience when I used to live on the lake in Louisiana. Had a boat lift off the back yard so it was a snap to drop a boat in and out and take it at a moment’s notice.

    I was happy when I sold the boat. We did make some good trips on it but certainly not worth the money I put into it. Could have rented for far cheaper and much easier for the same experiences.

  4. It’s fun to travel down a road with someone else when you’ve already been down it and hit all the pot holes. Which is to say, I used to have a boat.

    A late friend and fishing mentor once said, “When shoving $100 bills down the drain of an ice cold shower starts to feel good you know you’re ready to buy a boat.”

    If we ever meet in person I’ll tell you the story about the A-hole at the ramp who didn’t know how to back a trailer while 100+ boats are trying to get off the river at night in a raging thunderstorm. Good times.

    I voted.

  5. Every once in a while, I get this idea that we should have a boat. Then I remember that famous quote you mentioned, and wonder if it’s a good decision.

    Thanks for preventing me from buying a boat this winter! Can’t wait for Part 2.

Let's get things nice and sparkling clear