Fish Stories Classics: This column originally appeared in The Key West Citizen on Feb. 14, 2010.
So, what is there to do when the weather is so lousy? I don’t know about you, but I spend time doing projects on the boat. Now, this might sound pretty boring and mundane, but then you’re not me, and you’re not married to my wife. Loretta gets nervous when I work on the boat. Not that she thinks I’m stupid, she just doesn’t like me drilling holes in the boat, especially on the bottom. I think her concern centers on the fear of drowning. You see, my wife doesn’t swim, so anything that would allow water to enter the boat is a definite no-no with her. Go figure.
I’ve owned my boat for almost 14 years. I bought it when it was brand new. I really like this boat; it does everything I want it to do and it’s paid for. This is the first boat I’ve ever owned that I haven’t dreamed about getting another — bigger — boat. The old-timers call it two-foot-itis when you wish your boat was just 2 feet longer. My 23-foot boat serves my purpose perfectly. I can easily handle it alone, it takes a good wave, it’s totally rigged out the way I want it and I kick butt when I’m out fishing in it.
Owning a boat for this long a period of time is a wonderful thing. Every couple of years or so, I can easily justify purchasing some piece of equipment, or having some specialty work done to the boat. My justification to myself goes something like this, “Since I am not spending all that money to buy a new boat, I might as well put a couple dollars into a new …,” and then I think of something I would like to buy. This justification works much better on me, than it does on Loretta. But I can’t expect her to look at it the same way I do, after all, she doesn’t swim remember. Some of my purchases have been a little difficult for me to justify even to myself though. In that case, I have friends who help me through it. It’s kind of like “phoning a friend” on “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”
I remember one time wanting to buy an electric windlass to pull the anchor on the boat. It was around a $500 item if I installed it myself. So, I phoned my most proficient justification coach, Buzz, from Key West. Buzz is the accountant type. He is deadly with numbers. He figured that if I hired a guy to go on the boat and his only job was to pull the anchor, I could pay him $5 each time. Using that number, if I moved the boat four times in search of yellowtail snappers, the cost would be $20. Since I now had an anchor-boy on board, I wouldn’t hurt my back as bad as usual so I could probably fish more; let’s say five times per week. That brings me to $100 per week. Throw in the savings from not having to see the chiropractor, the grocery money I would save by having all that free fish to eat and so on and so forth, the $500 windlass would pay for itself in less than 2.5 weeks. It was a no-brainer. So, I bought it.
Using this same very same justification process I have purchased a hydraulic auto-pilot, new bimini top, 12-inch GPS/fish finder combo, outriggers, downriggers, an elevator boat lift, many, many, fishing rods and reels, a professional boat detailer to compound and wax the whole boat, a new 200-horsepower outboard motor (this one took two phone calls to Buzz) and some more fishing gear. You get the idea. Most of these purchases required some sort of installation on my part. And now comes the part where drilling holes enters the equation.
Every time I head toward the dock with a drill in my hand, Loretta’s stomach makes a funny sound. “Where are you going with that drill, Honey,” she asks. “I’m going to install a new electronic compass, Snookums,” I reply.
“Do you have to drill any holes in the boat, Sweety,” she continues.
“Only on the top of the boat, Pumpkin,” I respond.
“And how much did this electronic compass cost?” She questions.
I have already rehearsed my answer, “Not much actually, because I used all my rolled-up coins.” And so it goes until I promise that the holes are going in the top of the boat and not the bottom. It reminds me of the Three Stooges episode where they drill a hole in the bottom of a leaky boat so the water can go out.
But, now it’s time for me to buy the next thing for the boat. I’ve been disappointed in the performance of my new GPS/fish finder. The GPS is terrific, but the fish finder won’t give me the depths I need, and it gets squirrely when I’m running over 20 knots. I found a flush-mount through-the-hull transducer that promised to solve my problem. Not only will it work well, but it looks like a piece of fine jewelry. It is made of finely tooled brass and fits against the hull of the boat without all that bulky stuff that usually accompanies a through-hull transducer. In fact, there is not much more than 1/8 of an inch of metal that sits outside the hull. This is very cool, and extremely high-tech. It is made especially for my fish-finder. This stuff is men’s Nirvana. Best of all, I used the same rolled up coins excuse.
But there is one problem. The installation requires that a great big hole, about 2 inches around, has to be drilled right in the bottom of the boat. To save my marriage, and a lot of angst, I am going to let a professional install the transducer. Loretta is happy. I’m happy. The transducer will be installed and sealed properly. And I will undoubtedly catch enough fish to pay for the labor bill just in the savings at the grocery store. It’s like I’m getting the transducer for free. I like that.
You know, I love my wife, I love my boat, I’m glad I learned economics from my friend Buzz; and I can’t wait to try out the new transducer. And, just in case I forgot to say it, life is good in the Florida Keys; life is very good in the Florida Keys.