Miller and Tachibana went to the Miami International Boat Show that year where they met with Richard Merritt of Merritt Boat & Engine Works and purchased a used and undeniably problematic 42-footer which Miller named Black Bart. The price: $200,000.
Tachibana was skeptical despite Merritt’s assurances and Miller’s enthusiasm. Black Bart was obviously too long for her width and too heavy. By Merritt’s reckoning, she needed to be lightened by 5,000 pounds to bring her exhaust ports above water, which would cut exhaust back pressure and boost top end. And she needed wider chine flats (sponsons) for improved transverse stability. “Why do you want a cheap boat with problems?” translated the girlfriend at a fashionable watering hole one evening.
“We added the sponsons,” said Miller, fondly glancing at a photo hanging beside his picture window—a quartering shot of Black Bart under way. “And we removed the genset, the dinette, one of the heads, and some of the tanks.”
The pristine fishing machine that resulted was a veritable speed demon, a 32-knot screamer that could outrun virtually all of her contemporaries. “Those Panish controls were like musical instruments,” Miller sighed. “And backing down with Merritt’s rack-and-pinion steering—I mean, I could make that boat perform like a circus act.”
The end of the story’s the truly revelatory part. Miller lost his wonderful Merritt in 1994 for a prosaic reason. He was constrained to sell her while embroiled in a difficult divorce and subsequently left Hawaii to pursue other adventures, among them the creation of a TV show about fishing and the opening of the store in West Palm.
“But why did you choose that particular boat in the first place?” I asked, genuinely baffled. “I mean, Mr. Tachibana was willing to buy you anything, even if it cost millions.”
“Spirit, love, truth,” Miller replied with such breezy certainty that I wondered if I’d heard correctly.
“What?” I asked.
“Spirit, love, truth,” he reiterated. “Those are the things I’ve valued all my life, and that boat had them. Totally.”
Black Bart International (866) 289-7050. www.blackbartlures.com.
This article originally appeared in the March 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.