We pulled into an apartment complex, following a pin on Google Maps. “This is a strange place to keep a boat,” I say to Karen. Then I spot a Raymarine radar in an abandoned lot across the way.
The search for our next boat led us to a road-side daycare with an overgrown lot beside it in rural Massachusetts. I find a gap in the barbed-wire-topped fence, squeeze through and stride off towards the Grady-White 25 Sailfish I had saved on my phone for months. Noticing I’m alone, I look back at my wife, who is eight months pregnant, and who wore a look that said: Are you kidding me? I’m not fitting through here. We contemplate a little maternity gymnastics before thankfully finding
another, larger, break in the fence.
After a couple calls and texts, the owner gave us permission to climb aboard and inspect the boat at our leisure while he was away on business. This was actually a huge relief, as I was eager to put my professional boat inspecting skills to the test without someone leaning over my shoulder pitching me.
Right off the bat I could see the boat needed TLC. A cowling was cracked, a trailer tire was flat and she was in desperate need of a bath and a coat of wax. I liked her immediately. We climbed around and tried to take it all in. The deeper we pried into the boat, the more red flags were raised. The owner’s fishing gear and personal effects were strewn all over, which made it difficult, even for someone with a wild imagination like me, to imagine cruising aboard with our growing family.
I sat in the helm seat, and for a minute, I thought about all the work the boat would need if we bought her. I enjoyed restoring our last boat, and I’m continually inspired by all the work Capt. Bill puts into his little yacht; maybe I could really make this boat shine.
Now, I don’t cry at ASPCA commercials, but the thought of a good boat rotting away in an empty lot beside an abandoned school bus pulled at my heart strings. I tried rationalizing it to Karen, who just smiled quietly. This was not her first rodeo. She lifted a hatch to a port well. “Ew, is this supposed to be filled with water?” I looked over her shoulder at a trio of tackle boxes sitting in a watery grave, dirt and weeds growing in the hatch grooves. “Uh, well, not like this, but you can just pull the plug. It’s fine.”
“She’s solid where it counts,” I explained as we approached the transom and the outboards. Karen opened another hatch and a wasp flew out. Then a second. Then, “BEES! BEES! MOVE BACK, MOVE BACK!” I shout while slamming the hatch shut. I tried swatting a few of them away while Karen retreated to the bow in defeat.
I’m all for rolling up my sleeves, but bees are where I draw the line. I ran my hand down the boat’s hull as we made our way back to the car, giving it a few taps like I’ve seen surveyors do before, but not really listening for anything. It was more an affectionate tap of good luck.
Karen and I laughed that the bees were definitely NOT a good sign. Yet the thought of leaving the boat behind stung more than any wasp. “Let’s just get a picture of it before we go,” I say. “At least it was a fun road trip.”
It’s a funny shot. Karen, with a baby due in a few weeks, smiling proudly between the boat and that damn yellow bus. Since our trip to Massachusetts, I’ve talked myself in and out of that boat a dozen times. When I look at that picture, I can’t help but think about new adventures. Maybe I’ll visit the boat one more time...