Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Time to Head North

Next week will be my fourth trip up to see Boyne Thunder, one of America’s premiere poker runs. The first couple of years I traveled up to Michigan, I had hoped to at least bring my Formula 242 up as a marshal boat, but ongoing trailer issues nixed that. Later, having sold my boat, my wife and I still enjoyed heading up to see the boats and check out all the activities, like the street show in Boyne City and the art fair in Charlevoix, which always seems to be held on the same weekend. There’s no doubt that the region includes some of the most scenic areas the Midwest has to offer.

The Street Party in Boyne City on Friday night is one you don't want to miss.
This year, my wife has declined to go, and being freed up, I decided to inquire about the possibility of volunteering at the event, which raises money for children with cancer and individuals with disabilities. Having secured a couple of opportunities to pitch in, I started to make plans.

I had thought about going about a month or more before, but we were invited to travel with some friends to Florida in the Fall, so I held off. When it later became clear that my wife’s job would not allow us to travel south in November, I looked again at coming up to BT, but by that time, no reasonable accommodations were available, and she was balking at making another trip north.

That meant going by myself, and since my needs are pretty modest (I just need a place to rest my head at night and take a shower) I figured I could find a convenient camping spot in the area. Finding campgrounds was not an issue; the only problem is that most non-electric tent sites can’t be reserved in advance, so it’s first-come-first served just about everywhere. I’m pretty confident that I won’t have any problems, and though I am not a big recreational camper, I think this will be a nice little adventure.

The continued popularity of this event is a real testament to the people who work so hard to put it on every year. When I first ventured up here in 2008, I think there were about 40 boats running; this year I believe the number of registrants is up to 120—and there are lots of people who are still on the waiting list. Since that more performance boaters are discovering this great Poker Run, it’s become a “must do”—not only for boaters, but for manufacturers who like to premiere their new boats. One I am especially looking forward to see is Catnip, a new classic wooden runabout from Van Dam Custom Boats, which is actually located in Boyne City. See you at the street show next Friday Night!

Catnip under construction at Van Dam Custom Boats

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Message from The Dock

How long has it been? Too long, I suppose. As I sit writing this, I am making plans to head up to Michigan and volunteer at Boyne Thunder, one of America’s premier poker runs, and which was the subject of my last post on this website, back in 2011. A lot has happened since then, so let me briefly review…

I bought my boat when I turned 50, as a gift to myself. Always loved boats – operated them, but never owned one. I enjoyed my Formula for the first few years, but never got to use it as much as I wanted, and hardly ever in bigger water where I could really enjoy it. In 2010, I was “downsized” from the best job I ever had, out of work for 9 months (due to the recession) and eventually found a job making about 1/3 of my previous income.

Financially we were fine, but with gas at about $4 a gallon and our disposable income lower, boating became a guilty pleasure that increasingly came in second to staying at home on weekends and hanging out at the pool with friends. My vision of how I was going to enjoy my boat sharpened as I realized a few things:

1)  The time I would have to enjoy boating would be more limited than I thought. With both a pool and a boat, we would generally be splitting our weekends between the two, not counting weekends here and there that would be lost to lousy weather.

2)  I bought a (to me) large boat with a comfortable cabin thinking we could overnight on it. Only after I bought it did my wife indicate she could not sleep on a boat. That eliminated any possible savings on overnight accommodations for our boat trips. Hell—I could have just bought a Donzi sweet 16.

3)  It eventually became apparent that the wife was not a fan of high speed on the water. She liked a boat that looked fast, but was not so interested in going fast, or—god forbid—getting any air under the hull. Seems strange for a woman who enjoys riding roller coasters.

4)   The closest lakes to me are nice, but a 26’ boat was really too much boat for them. Limited speed areas; mostly no-wake zones. Lake Erie was 30+ miles away – but opportunities to get up there were pretty limited.

As a result of all this, the boat spent more time on the trailer in my driveway than it did on the water. It was paid for, but winter storage, maintenance, insurance and other costs made me reconsider my situation.

I also must interject here that I eventually came to the realization that the “boating lifestyle” I had envisioned was one that demanded either a significant investment in money (deep pockets) or time (free weekends) that I could not fully devote to the cause.

Most of the folks I saw taking their big boats (and their friends) to poker runs have lots of disposable income. You don’t have to look at a newer 40’ offshore boat with doubles or triples to know that they own their own company or have a very high-level job. It’s like almost owning your own private airplane; these folks can spend several thousand dollars on a weekend poker run and not bat an eye, and then do it again the following week. I think it’s great that they can do this, and it’s fun to follow—but that would never be me.

Of course, we all know there are lots of other folks out there who also enjoy going to poker runs who don’t have big bucks to blow. They may have smaller or older boats. They may participate by volunteering as a marshall boat, or having pals help subsidize their entry fee. They may attend less expensive events, too. But what they also have is more time—time away from family, time (and skill) to repair and maintain their own boat, maybe just more time in general, since boating is their primary activity, period. Unless I happen to have a job related to the boating industry, that’s not me, either.

So it should be no surprise that I sold the Formula a couple of years ago. I plan on having another boat before too long—but it will probably be smaller, and hopefully, permanently docked on the water near wherever I decide to retire.

Saying so long to my beloved BlackJack. Hope she found a happy home.
While I may have been slightly disenchanted with my initial foray into performance boating, I certainly never lost interest. I still love fast boats, and being both near the water and on the water. That will never change. What has changed is the way I choose to enjoy the hobby/sport/lifestyle. That may mean volunteering at events, attending more races and finding more ways I can contribute while acknowledging my current “landlubber” status.

In the meantime, even though I stopped posting on this site regularly, I transformed the main website into a weekly news update, with stories gathered from my Twitter Powerboat News list. That has allowed be to retain some presence on the web, in addition to my Twitter site - which now serves as the primary web platform for [B3]. My posts there are seasonal, but with almost 3,000 followers, it remains as one of the most prominent performance boating accounts on Twitter. I am happy about that.

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