Well here it is, another year. It seems that the older I get, the faster the years seem to fly by. It's already May and I have yet to do much more than just think about boating. This year has started out much like the previous; plenty of rain and fairly cool temperatures. There are signs however, that this may soon change. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
I'm getting ready to un-winterize my Checkmate for its 9th season as my primary ride. Wow!, 9 years now. I've never kept a boat for that long before. The previous record, for the longest period of time that I had ever owned a single boat, was 4 years and 2 months. Back then, we were victims of the "1-foot-itis" disease, where we kept trading up to larger boats every few years. Of course, at that time, we also had two incomes and no kids. That's no longer true. On the plus side though, for the last 4+ years the boat has been garage kept and not used all that much, so it's aging very well. It still smells new inside.
This year, I want to introduce my daughter to the fine sport of water tubing. Hopefully, now that she's also old enough now to be considered a "competent" observer, I can take a turn or two myself for the first time in 9 years (Wow, has it been that long?).
But one of the most anticipated events of this upcoming season was to be the inaugural splashing of Art's long term "project" boat, the 1982 Wellcraft 255 Suncruiser. With most of the work finally completed, Art had decided that this would be the year that the boat would finally see water. After we scouted out potential marinas on the upper Chesapeake Bay last fall (See Boating 2003), he had decided to base his boat at the Duffy Creek Marina, a small marina nestled between the larger Skipjack Marina and the Granary Restaurant, on the scenic Sassafras River. Duffy Creek is also the home port of another one of my boating friends, one of the former "River Rats", so the opportunity for some fun weekends was clearly within reach here. Art had given them the dock space money and there seemed to be no backing out now. It would appear that after much work, many excuses, and a ton of money invested, this 10 year driveway yacht would finally see some real water. But nothing in life is ever a sure thing, and this is evidently no exception. All of this effort may all be for naught now, as circumstances have changed Art's priorities. Over the winter, Art and his wife had decided to sell their home, and move to a different one. The home that they found needs far more TLC than the one they currently live in. Consequently, Art is starting to feel the chains of domestic servitude wrapping around him once again. The biggest downside to this is that due to the upcoming move, he doesn't think he will get much time to "play with boats" this year. An even bigger shock was the fact that he has also taken the drastic step of now trying to sell the Wellcraft. Things may change, as they often have a habit of doing, but this is certainly not the ending I was hoping for for this story.
Art also has a smaller 20' Celebrity which he is planning on putting into service instead. This boat is in need of some major trailer work, and a new alternator replacement for the original integral Mercruiser 470 unit, as well as some cosmetic work on the interior. But at least the engine runs. Whether either boat will see the Chesapeake (or any other body of water) this year remains to be seen. At this point, I'm not holding my breath.....
On a brighter note, I finally un-winterized my boat on 5/16. The engine roared to life on the first crank, and after a little light cleaning and a wash, it's ready for the season. Looks like I have a little less than 1/2 a tank of gas left over from last year. With gas now hitting $2.00 a gallon, I'm glad that I won't have to add too much. I anticipate another year like last year, with few real opportunities to hit the water. The cost of gas is probably going to kill my plans for more than maybe one trip to the Chesapeake and, with any luck, my much anticipated return to Lake Wallenpaupack, after a 2 long year hiatus.
In June, the weather started improving. The rain departed, and it was actually on the dry side. Temps were warm, but not too hot. But it wasn't until the 2nd of July, almost two months after I un-winterized the boat and after opportunity after opportunity dried up, that I finally got to actually take it out for the day. The family and I made a trip to Blue Marsh Lake, and hung out. I had taken a few days off from work so that we could enjoy the lake without the usual heavy traffic which is a trademark occurrence for this lake on any given summer weekend. But since we waited until a Friday to go, there was a bit more traffic than usual for a weekday, since many other people also took off for the upcoming 4th of July weekend. The launch ramp was not crowded though, and we had no trouble putting in. My daughter got her first (albeit small) taste of tubing while my wife Kimmi pulled us at idle speed in the no-wake area. I chickened out on taking my high speed run at the last minute, which pretty much put the kibosh to my much anticipated return to tubing. The amount of chop and increasing afternoon traffic concerned me, as I didn't want to have the stuffing knocked out of me on my first time out. I'm not as young as I used to be, and the last thing I needed was to spend the rest of the holiday weekend with back pain. Kimmi and I vowed that we'll come back on another less crowded weekday and I'd go then.
Another month would fly by before my next encounter with water. The weather in the month of July, like in the previous year, became muggy and unstable, with a good many heavy rainstorms which caused flooding and wind damage in the general area. We had over 13 inches of rain in July alone, so needless to say, the opportunities for boating were somewhat limited. My next outing therefore, occurred on August 9th. Once again the family and I headed out to Blue Marsh, and this time I was bound and determined to go tubing. We picked a "nothing special" Monday to make the trip, and the day could not have been better, with temperatures in the mid 80's with plenty of sun. We put the boat in with no problems, and we then headed up to the no-wake zone to have some lunch. My daughter then wanted to get wet and do a little swimming. I initially had some trepidation about the water temperature. Several heavy rains during the week prior, followed by an unseasonably cold snap (It hit the low 50's for a couple of nights), had me concerned that it would be too cold for my warm blooded butt. But after making my trademark "Nestea Plunge" off the back of the boat, I quickly acclimated myself to the rather cool, but not unbearably cold, water temperature. Once I realized that I could survive in this water temperature, I hastily inflated the tube, and attached the tow rope. My daughter Heather, having no fear, actually tried to walk on water:
Eventually gravity reasserted itself, and she quickly became acquainted with the water:
Feeling a little bit of Deja-vu, Kimmi once again pulled Heather and me slowly through the no wake zone on the tube:
We even let Heather have a turn at the wheel:
I remember piloting my father's boats as early as age 6. Heather is only 4, but she catches on fast. A chip off the old block I'd say............
Finally the moment of truth had arrived. It was time for me to take a high speed run on the tube for the first time in over 9 years. As Kimmi started pulling the rope taut, I was debating on just how I wanted to ride. In days (years) past, I got my biggest thrill, and had the most "staying" power if I laid flat on my stomach. But as I laid there, my lower back started to ache a bit, and I wondered just how bad it would get if I started bouncing on some stiff wakes. The thought of a sore back for the next several days wasn't a particularly appealing thought, so I quickly shifted to a more comfortable sitting position. After sweet talking Kimmi into taking it easy on me (Usually, her biggest thrill is trying to kill me by slamming me into wakes and whipping me around like a rag doll), we started out. I had concerns that the Checkmate would not make a very good tow boat, but the ride was not bad. But boy, this boat can put out quite a wake at normal skiing speeds, and surfing the crest of the wake was much steeper than with my previous boats, which made crossing back and forth a bit difficult. Kimmi began to whip me around a bit and once I was outside of the boat wake, I became "stuck" there, the size of the wake crest making it difficult to cross back. Once I was outside of, and no longer protected by, my boat's wake, I started getting pounded by the wakes from other boats. (Note to self: God, I'm getting old!) I wasn't too happy about this, so I insisted rather loudly, that she swing me back behind the boat. Once I was finally back in the "protected" water inside the boat's wake, I had a rather pleasant ride, but certainly nothing wild compared to what I used to do in the old days. Kimmi echoed my concerns about this boat's piss-poor towing caliber. Don't look now, but I think I see a boat change in the near future. Stay tuned for further details as they develop.
At this time, Art still hasn't sold his house, and I've just about given up hope that he'll do any serious boat related activities this season, although he is actually making some significant progress on his Celebrity. There's a glimmer of hope yet. But I doubt if it'll be ready this year. Maybe next year.......
The next, and most likely final, chapter in this boating season came on 9/24, when I made a spur of the moment decision to take a day off of work, and take the boat out for one last hurrah. The weather all week had been great, with lots of sun and low humidity. The temperatures were a bit on the high side for this time of year, but there were signs that we might be heading toward our first cool snap of fall weather in the not too distant future. With this in mind I thought that I'd better get my last run in before it decides to get too cold, as it can go from warm to cold in a week's time around here (I can remember some years ago cutting grass one week, and then shoveling snow the next). It's also worthy of note that it seems that for the last few years the best and most stable weather of the whole summer came in September. Maybe it's always been this way, but I never noticed until recently. I wish the whole summer was like this past week's weather.
I had to decide where I wanted to go. It would seem that I was going alone this time as Kimmi had no interest and Heather was back in school. As much as I like to cruise on the Chesapeake, I just don't care for that long and arduous drive there and back. The journey now takes place over too many stop and go 2 lane roads with tons of traffic, which takes too much time and burns a lot more gas. I prefer the ease of limited access highways for trips like this. Where I live now, there are some areas of the Susquehanna River that might be closer, and an easier drive. This is something I hope to check into in greater detail next year. But it does me little good right now. So with not much left in the way of choices, I decided to go, once again, to the much closer Blue Marsh Lake. The day's activities were rather mundane and somewhat boring. One thing that I did learn was that I could handle launching and retrieving the boat just fine by myself here. I hadn't tried it before and I had some concerns that the dock was too far away from the ramp to maneuver the boat on and off the trailer by hand, but it worked out fine. I had to do a little wading on the slippery, algae covered ramp to guide the boat straight to the bow stop and crank the winch, but it was otherwise a trouble free experience. But since I went by myself, that pretty much eliminated any hope of tubing (Unless I come up with a way to rig the boat for radio control. Boy would that turn a few heads). The lake is not all that big, and much of it is no-wake, so you can pretty much see all there is to see in a couple of hours. I decided to do a little more exploring. I traveled up one of the side finger creeks to see how far I could go, and I also found a nice cove to anchor in where the water level was shallow enough to stand in. But after only a couple of hours, I pulled out early as I pretty much got bored, and I wanted to clean and shine the boat since I'm now in the process of trying to sell it.
Art finally sold his house and it looks like the move will happen after all. He had been making some good progress on the Celebrity, but he hit another roadblock. It seems that the engine had some stale gas left in the carb and the engine will not idle now. To make matters worse, it also appears that the raw water pump impeller disintegrated, and requires replacement. This is more work than Art wants to deal with at this point so he pretty much decided to close it up and put it on hold until next year.
We moved his two driveway yachts to their new home (driveway) on the last weekend of October. I don't know when Art will get around to working on either one of them again. Hopefully, it'll be next year, but I've been saying that for the last few years, and we're not getting any younger.....
The boating season of 2004 ended officially on the 7th on November, when I winterized my boat and put it away for its 6 month nap. I can't help but wonder what next year will bring. I am planning on selling it and then trying to get another boat which is more ski/tube friendly, and easier to deal with. Whether or not I can swing the money for a new boat, or if I have to settle for a "slightly" used one, will be the big question. At least I can look forward to the boat shows in the late winter. It's been a while since I've been to one, and it might be a fun outing for the family...........