Bound Is a Boat-Less (Wo)Man
When my boyfriend and I bought our first boat together last fall, we were pretty sure we had gotten the best deal in the world. We had purchased a piece of history: A beautiful, hunter green 18-foot wooden skiff, built by the one and only Arvin Midgett, an Outer Banks native and fishing legend.
This pretty piece of history turned our to illustrate an adage -- Boat? It stands for bust out another thousand.
We felt quite privileged to have snagged the old Miss Boo. Even though the hull was showing her age, the engine was promised to be a well-oiled, relatively new machine. For two people with slim bank accounts, there wasn’t much extra convincing to be done; we were soon boat owners.
Quickly enough, our well-priced piece of nostalgia began to adhere to the adage – “Boat? Well, all that stands for is bust out another thousand.” For a boat built of Douglas fir, it looked well for having floated more than 20 years on our natal waters. Amidst hauling the boat one afternoon, the wood that had allowed us such freedom on the water started to fall apart. Sure, it may have been our fault, but we weren’t exactly expecting a pricey repair at the height of our new boat induced euphoria. As we had pulled from the water up the ramp, the old Miss Boo floated inches too far to the left. Once the cushion of the water brought the weight of the boat to the trailer (and the PVC trailer guides), our starboard sheer was lifted from the lines it once held, illuminating a rotten mess.
As if that repair wasn’t enough to bruise our confidence, there were more to come. After a fall and winter of afternoon trips and not so successful fishing, our luck took a turn for the worst. On a beautifully calm February evening, David and I decided to show our new puppy Blue the joys of owning a boat, and set off for a few hours on the water. After a good 15-minute run skipping across the glassy water, the newly christened Bean skidded to a sputtering, unexpected halt. Despite our efforts of calls to outboard mechanics (not to mention the embarrassment of not having a toolbox on the boat), we were forced to call my brother for the much-dreaded tow-in. As the sun set, we saw the hull of my father’s boat heading our way, and our fears of spending the night in an open skiff with a hungry dog were quelled.
Now, of course our minds settled upon the notion that the fix of the motor would be just as the last repair – inconvenient, but manageable. But just as our mechanic’s head began to shake and the news came to the surface, we realized we were in the market for a new engine. And let me tell you, these days those things are not cheap.
Despite the mechanical problems, The Bean became proof of another wise saying: Bound is a boat-less man.
After a good six months of procrastinating the inevitable (not to mention a summer devoid of lazy days on our skiff), we decided it might be best to wait for lottery winnings to purchase our new motor. But, as quick as our boat had appeared, so too did the prospect of our new motor. After a serendipitous find and a relatively quick meet and greet of a local cleaning house, we had found and purchased our new motor - an immaculate 25 horsepower two-stroke engine for a good price.
Just this weekend, the motor was attached to a now-lower transom and a boat ready to hit the water. The surf was too good for the entire family to have a day on the water, so Blue and I embarked on our own morning estuarine adventure. I can tell you, there are few sentiments that compare to being on the water on a pristine morning. Just as fall has broken, Blue and I explored the finger bays and barren marshes of the Croatan Sound, unattached to any schedule and in no worry of breaking down. Blue’s experience with fishing is still quite limited, but that’s not to say his excitement is wavering. Upon every cast through the lite southwesterly winds of the morning, he would let out no less than a whimper. When we finally did catch our well-sized puppy drum, Blue’s excitement got the best of him and overboard he went. While his swan-dive form was perfect, it was clear the fall was not an intended part of the day.
While this weekend will stand out in my memory as a monumental trip on our newly repaired vessel, it was really nothing more than a day on the water with my dog. But even in the sound I grew up on, I can still explore Cedar Bush Bay with the newness of having never seen it before. No matter your number of days on the water, there’s still the ever-persistent question of what will compose a new day on the water - from what you’ll see, or catch or hear. All I know is that you don’t need a boat to explore the greatness of our estuaries, but it sure does help. Just as my wise friend Willy Phillips likes to say, “Bound is a boat-less man.”
-- Ladd Bayliss, coastal advocate