It may seem counter intuitive as we head into August and our summer vacation/fishing seasons wind down, but now is a great time to start shopping for that fishing boat you’ve always dreamed about.
With the long winter storage/dry dock season looming ahead and next year’s models rolling off the assembly line; new boat dealers may be willing to offer significant discounts.
This time of year you can also find some great deals on used boats as many owners are eager to sell their crafts for a variety of reasons (usually with an eye on upgrading or downgrading) before our current boating season ends and the winter’s boat show season opens.
First, let’s get all those clichés about boat ownership out of the way. We all know that B.O.A.T. is an acronym for “Break Out Another Thousand” and that a boat can be defined as a hole in the water into which you dump money.
We’ve also heard that the two happiest days of a boat owner’s life are the day he or she buys the boat and the day he or she sells it. Consider these cliché caveats fair warning if you’re still determined to pursue the dream of boat ownership.
It’s also been said that every boat, fishing or otherwise, is a compromise, and your choice of vessel will be dictated by your life circumstances, budget, and, of course, how you intend to use this boat. For now, let’s limit our discussion to salt water fishing and power boats.
Too many potential boaters subscribe to the theory that bigger is better, and when they put their current boat up for sale, it’s often to “upgrade” to a larger craft. Again, the wisdom of your selection is a factor of your perceived purpose for owning the boat along with the circumstances of your life.
If you plan to fish exclusively inshore and offshore accompanied by at least one other angler on every trip, bigger probably is better, and so are twin screws or multiple outboards as opposed to a single prop. It’s important to have backup (beyond the ship to shore radio) when you’re out there in the deep blue and the coastline is nowhere in sight.
But if your preferred fishing grounds are primarily back bay and inshore, that 45-foot Ocean Yacht is probably not the most practical choice, especially if you do much of your fishing solo. I’ve owned three fishing boats over my adult life, each purchased under different circumstances and for different reasons and considerations.
So if you’re in the market for a fishing boat, you may find my own decades long experiences (and mistakes) of boat buying, maintaining, operating, and fishing experiences instructive.
I bought my first power boat back in 1981, a well worn 17-foot Boston Whaler Montauk, a classic center console fishing boat powered by a 70 horsepower Johnson outboard. Back then, newly married with a mortgage, I had limited boating resources; a new boat was far beyond my means, so a used vessel (VERY used) was my only option after I scraped together a few thousand bucks.
One major drawback of buying new is the immediate depreciation in the value of your boat the moment you first set sail. Buying used spares you that initial and significant depreciation expense.
On the other hand, as my father often told me, when you purchase a used car (or boat) you may simply be buying somebody else’s problems. In the end, whether you buy new or used ultimately comes down to your life’s state of affairs, especially budget, and affordability.
A center console model like my old Montauk is a great choice for anglers that often fish alone because you can sit at the helm and operate the boat while fishing at the same time. In addition to a more affordable purchase price and lower maintenance costs, another nice thing about a 17-foot (or smaller) boat is trailer-ability. My little six-cylinder Ford F100 could haul the little Whaler with ease, and backing it down a boat ramp was never a problem.
Although we trailered it to the Jersey shore on occasion and also to Ocean City, Md., to fish the back bays, my primary fishing passion back in the day was the Delaware Bay in quest of tide runner weakfish (now long gone). So more often than not, we headed for the public ramps at Misspillion Inlet on the Delaware side.
I’d launch the boat, usually accompanied by my wife, Patti, fishing buddy Ralph Haney, and a wild ride out to the Anchorage fishing grounds would ensue. And the ride back, often against stubborn wind and tides, tended to be so bumpy that the ragged mahogany center console often pulled loose from the fiberglass deck -- making for some challenging navigation back to the dock and an extensive reattachment repair job before our next adventure.
A few fishing trips onto the expansive and often turbulent Delaware Bay waters taught me two lessons about my choice of fishing boat then. One, 17-feet was a tad too small to feel comfortable in those kinds of seas. In fact, there were plenty of times when we arrived at the Misspillion ramps only to be greeted by other boaters who had attempted to push out onto the bay but been turned back by wind and unexpectedly rough seas.
On (most of)those occasions we were wise enough to forego any launching attempt and directly return home, all of which resulted in a four hour trailering exercise in futility.
The second thing I learned was that the shallow tri-hull design, like the one the Whaler boasted, might be fine for skimming the gentle, forgiving waters of the back bays, but no match for the typical chop the winds and tides of the Delaware Bay were inclined to serve up. There I would have been better off with a deeper V-hull design and a bigger boat.
Since those days, Whaler has modified and improved their hull designs on most models, making them more universally suitable for adverse conditions than my old classic was.
Next week: Choosing from among center consoles, dual consoles, walk around cabin and pontoon boat designs.
SPORTSMEN’S AUCTION: The West Caln Sportsmen’s Club will hold an auction on Saturday, Aug. 9, at the club grounds at 1271 Telegraph Rd., Coatesville Pa., 19320.
Auction items include a unique collection of fishing, hunting, shooting, and archery equipment and apparel along with a variety of outdoor gear, tools, optics, military memorabilia and other items of interest to the outdoor enthusiast.
This is an absolute auction - all items will be sold.
Cash sales only. Viewing time at the club from 10:00 a.m. until noon on Saturday. Auction will start promptly at noon.
For more information, contact Pete Moffett (610-273-3366), Bobby Davis (610-857-1583), Gabe Julian (484-722-8244), or check their website at www.WCSPORTSMEN.org.