What is a boat? Perhaps the classic definition is “a hole in the water into which you pour money”. Along with the two happiest days in a boater’s life are the day they buy the boat and the day they sell it. Well I bought the little boat many years ago, probably about 1986. It has been rebuilt several times. It was once declared as a total loss by a local repair facility. Each time I’ve managed to find the materials and do the work to make her float.
So it was earlier this spring when the straps broke and the little boat hit the ramp with a shattering thump. Once again I was finding material, molding ABS plastic epoxy filler into major cracks and applying paint to her hull. During this process, I wondered why I worked so hard to keep this boat rather than just finding another one. After all, I’ve spent several times more money in repairs than I paid for her. The answer was easy – it’s the memories.
There are lots of memories. The fishing trips are always special. First they were with my children. Now it is the grandchildren catching their first fish from the little boat. I’ve written about a fishing trip that involved catching thirteen very nice crappie at Caesar Creek around 2000. It was also a trip when my son, was operating the boat, managed to knock three holes in the bottom by hitting a piece of an old dead tree. Adding insult to injury was two flat tires on the trailer during the trip home. I’ve never kept thirteen fish since that trip! Stay and catch one more or release one but never again thirteen.
Special memories with the boat include family. One summer it involved my children taking the boat fishing without me. The oldest were teenagers while the youngest, my daughter, just went along with her brothers for the ride. Hopefully she learned a lesson about following boys anyplace! Living at Shawnee Lake they wanted to go fishing. They could fish about every day. The fifteen year old was supposed to watch the two younger ones while I had to go to work during my summer visitation. No vehicle and no driver’s license was no problem to their creativity.
They simply put a trailer ball on the garden tractor, hooked up the boat, added a slow moving vehicle sign and went about a half-mile down the road to a waterfront home. I would have paid to see the oldest driving along the streets with the two younger ones perched in the boat. I’ve heard stories about the looks the kids got. They successfully launched the boat and went fishing. They hadn’t quite thought about loading the boat and coming home.
The little garden tractor didn’t have enough motor nor traction to pull it out of the water. They did finally manage to get it home. However living in a small community, their activity was soon busted. Thankfully this was decades ago. Today a parent is likely in big trouble for some type of child endangerment charges. For us, this is one of the most special memories of growing up.
Many of my memories were made with my Father and Mother fishing in small rented boats often at Cowan Lake. I remember Dad finally buying a small twelve-foot boat. When the doctors told Dad he could no longer take the boat fishing, he gave it to me. I traded it for the little boat.
Then I repaid Dad for all those fishing trips with a couple of final boat rides. I got the little boat minor repairs made and outfitted for my fishing needs. This included some new seats with better back supports. Dad wasn’t supposed to be on the water since, at age 80, he was no longer stable on his feet. Much to my Mother’s objections and concerns, I was determined to take Dad one last boat ride. So ignoring her pleas, I took the little boat and Dad to the dock. Mother was worried sick at home as she just couldn’t bring herself to watch. Donning life jackets, I was able to get Dad safely seated in the front casting seat. There he was to remain throughout the ride. It was a weekday so there was no lake traffic. Combined with a lack of breeze the lake was smooth as glass. Perfect for a smooth ride in a little boat.
We circled the lake a couple of times. Dad was literally grinning ear to ear to be on the water again. As I’ve gotten older, I better understand his emotions. This trip meant more to Dad than all the medicines the doctors prescribed. Dad passed away in about 18-months after his last boat ride. The memory will live forever!
If you are a boater, little boat or big boat, forget the money and make some memories this summer. This little boat isn’t a hole into which I throw money. It is a hole to be filled with precious memories! Enjoy those special days with children and grandchildren. They grow up and we grow old too quickly. If I am lucky maybe they will take this old man on his last boat ride. The time may be closer than any of us would like to think. Finally, always remember to boat sober, boat safely and wear that lifejacket!