It has been said that the two happiest times in your life are when you buy a boat and when you sell the boat. I’ve owned a few boats in my life, so let’s go over the trials and tribulations of owning one so I can help you skip some heartache.
Let’s draw up a boating schedule for the average Idahoan. Unless you’re floating the rivers up North steelhead fishing, you probably fish April through August. That’s 22 Saturdays. If you’re lucky there’s only one Saturday per month with bad weather such as rain or typhoon type winds. Now we’re down to 18. Then let’s say you have to work maybe eight Saturdays. Now we’re down to 10. Then some animal lover will schedule a wedding or graduation in the middle of primo fishing season. Now we’re down to only getting to fish eight Saturdays.
You can make adjustments to match your individual scenario but you get my drift — our days fishing are limited and precious. I say all of this to point out, buy a new(er) boat motor. You don’t want to spend your few precious free days sitting at the boat dock working on a boat motor or getting hauled to jail because in a fit of rage you emptied your 30-06 into a dysfunctional boat motor while witnesses filmed you.
Katy and I had just gotten married when we bought a decent looking boat at a ranch auction. Our first free Saturday, we went to the lake only to discover that the motor was froze up. After a trip to the boat house and $2,500 later we were headed back out two weeks later.
Same scenario. Boat wouldn’t start and me and Katy’s grandpa blew across the bay.
Back to the boathouse, stern talk to the scalawag mechanics and we were finally in the saddle. Not that I recommend watching this movie but shortly thereafter Katy and I watched the show “Money Pit.” It was about a young couple that bought a house and all of the fiascos that they encountered while remodeling it. I think they drew up the plot around what we had encountered with our newly purchased boat and we never received any royalties!
I learned then, no more free time than I have, I’m not going to buy a boat with an old motor. In fact, I’m in the market for a new boat right now. Sure, I wouldn’t mind buying a used one if I could find one 1 to 3 years old in pristine condition but other than that, I’m going to buy a new one. It’s not worth the pain to get a good deal on a 400-pound paper weight called a boat motor.
Which brings us around to my old faithful, tried and true 12-foot little jon boat. We bought it the first year we got married 37 years ago. It is great for sandpits, small lakes and floating smooth rivers. We’ve caught boatloads of fish in it. Up until two years ago, all that we’ve ever had were electric motors. Then two years ago we got a 2.3 hp Honda motor, which was a slice of heaven.
So according to me, it’s been a great fishing/bowfishing boat. To winterize it, flip it on its side against the fence and that’s it. It doesn’t have to be stored inside. Snow means nothing to it. The sun can’t hurt it. Sure, once me and the kids were floating the Boise River and went over a diversion dam and knocked a hole in the bottom and had to get that patched but that’s the only maintenance required other than spray painting it every few years with two or three cans of $1.50 spray paint.
In case the haters happen upon this article I guess that I’d better go ahead and mention a few wee downsides to the boat that we affectionately named the Black Pearl and hoist a pirate flag up her flag pole — well, dowel rod — when she is on the high seas.
According to the scoffers of which there are many, they’ve come up with derogatory names such as “The Coffin,” “Carp 1” or "The Edmund Fitz Terror.”
One time while walleye fishing we’d barely gotten out of the sheltered bay where the boat launch was and encountered some gale-like winds and 2- to 3-foot waves. My buddy told me to take him back. He said he’d seen a pay phone. He’d call his wife to come get him and I was free to keep fishing.
Another time my buddy Ron Spomer and I were bowfishing on Lake Lowell. Well, the winds blew up and we had a good mile to go to get back to the truck. Ron was up in the bow singing the Edmund Fitzgerald song while changing the words to Edmund Fitz Terror and free lanced in a few other words. He swears there were 5-foot waves but I think they were only 3 ½-foot. But it is a little disconcerting when you only have 2-inches of clearance in the back.
And then a couple of times the electric motor died right when I got within 50 feet of the dock and I blew off into oblivion. One time on Lake Lowell luckily there were two firemen watching that fished me out when I blew up in the logs and almost lost everything.
Then multiple times I’ve blown up on shore with a boat full of water which even in a little Jon boat can be tough to flip over to dump.
So, there are a couple of minor inconveniences with operating a little jon boat on the high seas. So, if someday you’re zipping to the dock trying to beat an incoming storm and see a semi floating jon boat, please stop and rescue the women and kids off the sinking craft. Don’t worry about me, I’ve driven it submarine style numerous times. I’ll be OK.
Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.