An Outdoor View: Boats

A friend recently told me that he might sell his boat next year. He was doing so, he explained, so he would no longer have to do all the trailering, the launching, the maintenance and the worrying about it.

I wasn’t surprised to hear this, but it was sad news, nonetheless. Another reason he’s contemplating selling his boat is that he’s barely able to get in and out of it anymore, but he didn’t have to tell me that, so he didn’t.

The dismally poor king salmon fishing of the past few years probably figures into his decision. If the fishing prospects were to improve in the near future, I think he might hang onto the boat for a while. But the prospects don’t look good, either for the king fishing or for his health.

Having owned boats for almost all of his life — he’s in his late 80s — it will be an enormous change for him to suddenly be without one. He uses his boat mainly for fishing the Kenai River, and for occasional trips to Kachemak Bay for clams and to Resurrection Bay for the Seward Silver Salmon Derby. He would still be able to fish with friends who have boats, so it’s not like he’d be giving up fishing completely. He also can afford to charter fishing trips. But he’s sure to miss the freedom and independence of having his own boat.

I’ve seen this happen before. My father sold his last boat when he was in his late 80s. He, like my friend, had owned boats since he was a teenager. Starting with rowboats and canoes, he went through a series of power boats, the largest a 19-foot outboard cabin cruiser. While well into his 70s the “old man” raced and cruised a 12-foot Pelican-class sailboat on Puget Sound and on lakes near and far. The last boat he owned was a 12-foot Smokercraft “Alaskan” with a 15-hp Suzuki outboard. It wasn’t much, but it was a boat, and the day he sold it was a sad one. He didn’t want to stop using it, but Mom didn’t like him going out on the sound alone. Having teethed on the gunwales of a wooden rowboat on Puget Sound, Dad had no fears, but to keep Mom happy, he sold the boat. It was a sad day.

It’s not so much about losing a boat, but about what the boat represents. A boat is a ticket to an exciting, ever-changing world. There’s nothing quite like the joy of being captain of your own ship, the thrill of venturing out onto the ocean, the sense of adventure that comes when you explore inlets and bays in your own boat. Like your first car, your boat sets you free.

It may be a sad day when you have to take your boat out of the water at the end of a season, but it’s an even sadder day when you have to sell the last boat you’ll ever own.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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