Every time I write one of these Boats We Love columns, it gets me reminiscing. I expound on this boat or that one, something I’ve owned or maybe just spent some time on, but a boat I came to love. (Fortunately I fall in love with multiple boats rather than with multiple women, or my wife would surely have a problem with my emotional proclivity.) Let’s face it: a love affair with a boat can be triggered in the wink of an eye. Just take a glance at a Chris-Craft Carina or a Hunt 44 and you'll see what I mean.
Of course, looks aren't everything. And quite often I find myself falling in love with boats that look, well, let’s say “aged." One of these that I regularly feel tugging at my heart-strings is the old 60s vintage Trojan 31.
I have a lot of hours logged on a 31. That’s because my family owned one when I was a tyke. The boat was made of marine plywood, struggled to hit 15 knots, and smelled like a mildew farm. For a five year old kid, every moment spent aboard was nirvana. That old Trojan also taught me a lot about boats.
We used to spend the months of April, May, and June sanding, scraping, painting, and replacing rotted wood. Then we used the boat for July, August, and September. The rest of the fall was spent replacing the wood that had rotted over the summer. And sanding. And scraping. And painting. It was an absolute pain in the you-know-what, but this experience gave me my first and most important lesson about owning a boat:
Lesson number one: Fiberglass was sent to us from heaven, by angels. If you have ever lived through maintaining a wood boat, you know what I mean.
From time to time we'd overnight on the boat, cooking dinner on its hand-pumped alcohol stove. At least, we did that until Dad set the boat on fire. Which leads me to...
Lesson number two: Never use the stove on your boat. You WILL set something on fire. Okay, so maybe this lesson is a bit dated. Today's marine stoves are far more reliable and safe. Yet for some reason, I still can't bring myself to cook on a boat with anything other than a microwave.
Despite all the Trojan's downsides, we spent every possible moment aboard it. We fished, we swam, and we cruised. Mostly, we prayed the engine would keep running. Mostly, to no avail.
Lesson number three: Modern marine engines were also sent to us by angels, from heaven. The old standard gasoline marinized automobile engine was notoriously unreliable, as were many old-tech outboards. But in this day and age we can buy a new boat and expect to go for years without a single breakdown on the water. This is a blessing younger boaters (who grew up with reliability) will probably not even appreciate. But those of us who remember the days when you couldn't get through a single season without a tow or two know just how big a deal this is.
And here's a final lesson that old Trojan taught me: no matter how old, stinky, or unreliable a boat may be, if you own it, you probably love it. Because any boat that gets you out on the water to fish, swim, and cruise enriches your life—no matter how much of a pain in the you-know-what it may be.