This column originally appeared in the Keys Citizen on Jan. 27, 2013.
It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. How can that be? Have you ever had times like that? I had a few days like that just this month.
The boat wouldn’t start one morning. The motor was turning over fine, the batteries sounded great, but the motor wouldn’t start, see … it was the worst of times. My regular boat mechanic is out of town, so I put my thinking cap on and decided I knew what was wrong with the boat, or more precisely, the engine. And, sure enough, I was right. I changed the spark plugs, turned the key and the boat fired up like it was brand new and then ran perfectly for the next two days. So now, it was the best of times again.
Five days later, I had a three-hour window in my workday. I loaded the boat for some offshore trolling and took off. The boat ran great. In fact, I was really impressed. The boat felt like it was brand new. I caught a good-sized blackfin in 200 feet of water and was feeling pretty good about life. Still the best of times, right?
I lost a few more fish for one reason or another and then, my time was up, and I had to head back home. By this time, I was in 650 feet of water, 15 miles offshore. I ran back to Sister’s Creek at 4300 rpm. The boat never even raised a sweat. As I passed the outer marker by Sombrero Beach, I throttled way back and waited for the boat to settle in the water. It sounded awfully quiet, but I didn’t think much of it until I slowed to almost idle speed and realized the motor had stalled. This is very unusual for my boat.
I turned the key to restart the boat. The motor was turning quickly and easily, but still had that unmistakable sound of an outboard motor with no intention of starting. And it quickly became the worst of times again.
I threw the anchor to make sure the incoming tide did not push me into the rocks, or the dock at Sombrero Beach. When I looked up, a friend was right in front of me in his boat. “We stopped because we thought you were some Googan anchored in the channel,” he chortled. For the record, I’m not a Googan; and I was not in the channel. After a little discussion, they threw a line and towed me back to my house. This was the worst of times because the boat was re-broken (I think I just invented a new word), and at the same time, this was the best of times because I got a tow back to the house almost immediately.
I’m not sure what brought all this “best of times…worst of times” stuff up, but there it was lurking just under the outer recesses of my alleged mind. I don’t like it when the boat is broken. I don’t like it at all. I feel out of place when the boat is down. I feel like a fish out of water, excuse the expression. I prepare myself for boat problems. I prepare myself for the financial hit, but even more so for the emotional hit.
It’s a little surprising actually, to admit that not having total access to the EP2 (that’s the name of my boat, Extravagant Promises II, abbreviated) is emotionally unsettling to me. My boating and fishing friends all say the same thing. It’s not like we would be fishing every day, we just don’t like not being able to. I’ve had this discussion many times and what I’ve come away with is that boat owners — own boats.
We understand the ups and downs of boat ownership and we are OK with it. Non-boat-owners don’t get it. If I had a nickel for every time someone has asked, “Why don’t you just go to Key’s Fisheries and buy some fish?” I would have enough money to do just that. It makes just as much sense as, “Why do you have to bet on the races? Why don’t you just watch the horses run?” makes to a gambler.
As this gobbledygook makes its way through my brain, the EP2 sits silently on its lift. Strangely enough, you can’t tell just by looking at it that it is out of commission. It looks as it does any other day. Once every day or so I stand on the sea wall, or board the boat and sit there quietly for awhile. I’m very comfortable on the boat. I’m very serene on the boat. It’s almost as good as being in the water, stalking the elusive wahoo. But not quite as good.
As often happens, two good friends of mine also had boats that were broken at the same time. What a predicament. One of them called today and said that his boat is back up and running. This is a good thing; it means there is hope for the two of us remaining. It seems so materialistic to be this disturbed over the temporary loss of a mechanical piece of equipment. But it is what it is, and I am what I am. No, not Popeye the Sailor Man, I’m a boater and a fisherman. This is my chosen passion and my chosen avocation.
If I didn’t have the boating and fishing, what would I do for fun? I thought, one time, about putting a ping-pong table in the basement, then remembered I don’t have a basement. Maybe someday. I mean, think about it, all I would have to do is buy three new ping-pong balls a year. How easy is that? I would probably save enough money to buy a bigger boat.
Ah, and life would be back to normal again. I’m a boater; I will always own a boat. And it doesn’t matter if it is the best of times or the worst of times, life is good in the Florida Keys; life is very good in the Florida Keys.
C.J. Geotis is a lifelong fisherman who followed his dream more than 20 years ago to live in the Florida Keys. His books, “Florida Keys Fish Stories,” and “Double-Edged Sword” are available at Amazon.com. He lives in Marathon with his wife, Loretta, and her Coca-Cola collection. His email is email@example.com.