Our first boat was a disaster. One bad experience after another. One large repair bill after another. It’s amazing we continued boating. But we got another boat and we’ve been enthusiastic boaters ever since.
In 2001, Tom and I bought the ten-year old boat we affectionately nicknamed “The Titanic”. It was a 27 foot Carver Santiago power boat. The boat was named “Patron,” after its previous owners, Pat and Ron. We never changed the name and according to boating superstition, that could have been the reason for our bad luck with the boat. (Boaters are very superstitious).
Our first boat
Tom on our first boat
Our first boat
The one good trip we had with the boat, fortunately, was the first. We had to pick the boat up in Massachusetts and drive it back to our home marina in Stratford, Connecticut. We had taken a required boater safety course but had never actually driven a boat. For some reason, we thought it would be a good idea to make our maiden voyage a 122-mile trip. In March! We were wearing ski gear to stay warm. It should have been an eight-hour drive. It turned out to be more than eleven.
Tom’s brother came down to help us on our maiden nautical voyage. All the boaters we talked to on the trip asked us if we had insurance and if we had Sea Tow, the boater’s equivalent of AAA. We couldn’t understand why everyone kept asking us those questions. Now we do. Experienced boaters knew that doing that trip in one day was totally crazy! Especially with novice boaters.
We set off from Massachusetts in sunny but cold weather, and calm seas. The first few hours were fine. We were pleased with how well we were doing. Then we hit Long Island Sound and the seas got rough. Very rough. The boat was rocking,d rolling, and banging down hard after each wave. We were being bounced and flung around like rag dolls. It was scary and unpleasant, to say the least.
Kitchen and living area
The second half of the trip took twice as long as the first. It got dark. Now we were navigating into our home marina at night. We had no idea where we were.
At one point, we ended up in just a few feet of water, which is not good. Tom decided it was time to call it quits. He announced that we were pulling into the first marina we saw. Our car was at the Brewer Marina, but he didn’t care. We were docking NOW! Believe it or not, we landed at the right marina, on our assigned dock. Victory! We did it! What great luck!
And then our luck changed. On Tom’s next rip, he ran aground and broke a battery post, which killed the battery. Two fishermen in a small boat towed Tom to a public dock. He called me, I picked him up, we bought a new battery and the boat made it home.
Next time out, Tom thought the auxiliary gas tank was full and opened it up. It was empty and this caused the boat to go dead in the water. Tom got acquainted with Sea Tow’s services. They were wonderful and helped Tom figure out what was wrong over the phone. He filled the auxiliary tank and all was well again.
Kitchen and living area with dining table
Then came the coup de grâce. We took a trip to Essex, Connecticut on the Connecticut River. Tom was pulling on a line at the marina and it broke, flinging Tom into the water. He lost his sunglasses and his lucky boating hat. More bad juju. I told you boaters are superstitious.
On the way home, a stick got caught in the propeller and the boat started acting wonky. Tom was anxious to get back home quickly to fix the problem, so he took a shortcut – and ran aground. At full speed.
Here’s where the expensive damage came in. Both propellers were damaged. Tom replaced one and took the boat out to test it. Unbeknownst to him, the oil pan under the engine was rusted out. Running aground caused the oil to drain out of it. The oil gauge should have told Tom that there was a problem. But it had never worked right, either. When it registered ‘no oil pressure’, Tom assumed it was wrong — and ignored it. When he ran the engine, the engine seized. And died. The entire engine had to be replaced. which cost as much as the original price of the boat.
This repair was so major and took so long, our boat was out of the water for most of the boating season. Friends teased us that we didn’t really have a boat. So when we had guests, we started entertaining them on the boat – which was sitting in the parking lot at the marina. At least we still had a water view.
Sofa (and bed) in stern of boat plus view of small deck
Tom loved to say that the only difference between our boat and the Titanic (other than the fact that we never actually sank) was that the Titanic had a live band and we had a cassette player. Most of our problems were not actually the boat’s fault. They were stupid Captain’s tricks made by an inexperienced boater.
But the boat felt cursed to us. So that fall, while we were waiting for the second engine to be installed, we sold the boat, now in pristine condition.
In 2003 we bought another ten-year old boat, this time a 32-foot Carver Aft-Cabin Motor Yacht. We named the boat ‘Second Chance’ since we were giving boating a second chance. Also, we had just gotten married and we felt we were each other’s second chance as well.
We loved this boat and took wonderful trips with it, usually with our two dogs and often with other boating friends. We spent time in a beautiful cove in Port Jefferson, Long Island, NY. We traveled to Montauk, NY, Block Island, RI and Martha’s Vineyard, MA. We went back to the Connecticut River many times.
Living area on Second Chance with view of kitchen
Deck of Second Chance
Eating area and extra sleeping area
We had no problems with this boat except that our gas tanks were small and our range was very limited. So in 2008, we upgraded again to our current boat. This is our dream boat. It’s a 40 foot Carver Aft-Cabin. It was ten years old when we got it but it was in great shape and was immaculate. We named this one ‘Serenity’, after the spaceship in Tom’s favorite TV show and movie, ‘Firefly’.
Serenity – Photo: Garry Armstrong
This is our last boat. It’s incredibly comfortable to live on for a week or so at a time. It’s great to entertain on for as many as twelve people. It’s been a wonderful ‘vacation home’ for us, as well as a way to travel around and ‘sight-see’. We often spend time on the boat at the marina, which can be a very friendly and social place.
This is our current boat, Serenity
Tom spends almost every day on the boat for six months of the year. He just loves it. It’s his happy place. He goes into withdrawal when we have to take the boat out of the water in November. He counts the days until it goes back in the water in May.
Tom on the dock in the winter, waiting for boating season to start again
So despite our inauspicious beginning as boaters, we have made boating an important and cherished part of our lives.