Although we all live within fifteen to twenty minutes of each other in bordering towns, I do not get to see my grandchildren as much as I would like. My daughters and their families are busy, I’m busy, and often when we do get together, it is brief or a part of a larger event. So far I’ve learned that my grandsons all like water, enjoy fishing, and generally have a good time doing that. My granddaughter is still a bit too young to get into it.
Lately I’ve been thinking about ways to enjoy some quality time with them. One option is fishing. Nothing like icky worms, poles that can put an eye out, and hooks that pierce the skin to have a good time. Kids of either gender can enjoy fishing. But why not make it even more interesting? Fishing from a boat! As long as I don’t attempt to take them all at one time, it can be a relaxing, enjoyable time together.
These thoughts have been kicking around in my head for nearly a year now, and I started getting serious about it a few weeks ago. My criteria for a fishing boat was to get something relatively small, used, and not terribly expensive. I looked in the usual places; Craigslist and eBay. I found plenty of boats. By shopping them, I began to form an idea of what I wanted. An aluminum boat seemed to make the most sense. Something small, like a 12- to 16-footer would do. While a gas engine would be nice, something with an electric trolling motor would be suitable. My search brought up a lot of stuff that was either too expensive, or so beat up that I wouldn’t risk life and limb in something that might not hold water. Knowing my own limitations when it comes to getting a fixer-upper, I decided to try and find a boat that didn’t need a lot of work.
Last weekend I found the boat I wanted. It was one of those deals where a price was listed, but offers would be entertained. I was a little concerned about having to travel to Berwick, Penn., to pick it up, so I made an offer that was respectful to the owner, but low enough to accommodate the travel costs. On eBay, the seller has 48 hours to respond to a legitimate offer. The seller accepted my offer in less than 24 hours. Here’s what I purchased: A 1955 12-foot Alumacraft fishing boat with a new electric trolling motor, and a vintage 1952 Evinrude seven and a half horsepower gas motor, not currently running. It came with an anchor, a trailer, battery, running lights, and a valid Pennsylvania registration good through March of next year. What caught my eye online was the new paint, restored bench seats, and near perfect trailer. The boat is painted a forest green and pale yellow combination that looks vintage, but fresh and new.
I scheduled the next Friday for pick-up. Joe, the owner, said he worked at home and would be there. Perfect. A Friday pick-up with a weekend ahead to try it out. As per my plan, I left Friday morning at 4:15 in my well-used Dodge Ram three-quarter-ton pickup. I made good time by being consistent, with speeds on the interstates right around 68. I arrived in Berwick at 11:30 a.m.
The distinctive feature in Berwick that I was able to pick out visually from as far away as Scranton Wilkes Barre was the twin cooling towers of the Susquehanna Nuclear Plant. Just seven miles northeast of Berwick, it is the largest boiling water nuclear plant in the U.S. The steam clouds were visible from long distances and stood out in relief from the perfectly clear deep blue skies.
Joe turned out to be a young man with a wife and three young boys. His home was in a neat, middle class development not far from the Susquehanna. As I looked over my purchase, I realized that Joe was a meticulous steward of this nearly 60-year old boat. He had done a really nice restoration, including many thoughtful details. The interior was painted in textured bed liner material for non-slip standing. Just underneath the gunwale lip on two sides of the interior were strips of LED lights for baiting hooks after dark. The wooden battery box had lighted switches for the LEDs and the running lights. Joe had fabricated rod holders for each of the bench seats out of PVC pipe. He had painted and restored the oars and oarlocks. There was a new wooden transom plate, and all of the wood components had multiple coats of spar varnish on them. The trolling motor looked brand new, as did the deep cycle Diehard battery. He even threw in a new upholstered seat. To make a long story longer, I got the boat home, and my step son and I took it out on Lake Warren in Alstead for a shake down cruise. It performed flawlessly, and has garnered numerous compliments on its restoration. Now if I can get that Evinrude running I’ll really have a vintage vessel!
Arlo Mudgett’s Morning Almanac has been heard over multiple radio stations in Vermont for nearly 30 years, and can be tuned in at 92.7 WKVT FM Monday through Saturday mornings at 8:35 a.m.