What is it about first loves? Why are they so unforgettable, getting better as time passes? And why are they usually disastrous to go back to? You call your old sweetheart one night after a few too many. But when you meet again, you feel as if you'd rather be having a root canal. It's the same with what we once coveted. You drooled over that muscle car as a kid. But now, when you can finally afford it, you discover it can be beaten by a tricked-out Honda Civic. Careful what you wish for, brother, you just might get it. And it's no different with boats. We found four boaters who tried to revive their memories. For some, the reality was better than the dream, for others, it was a nightmare. Thinking of going back? Read this first.
What was I thinking?
Edward Keith of Cape Cod has a secret. For decades, he lusted after another man's boat. "I might not have owned it, but I did a lot of fishing on it," says Keith. He first boarded it in 1985, then spent the next 10 years bonding with the single-screw 24' Blackfin Combi. "It was the perfect size and a great rough-water performer," recalls Keith with a grin. Even better was that it was always there for him to use. But all good things end. His friend eventually sold the Blackfin. "I missed that boat and talked about buying one," says Keith. After six years of searching, he made the leap and bought one. It needed a thorough cleaning, and he replaced the teak, the windshield, and the engines. "The rebuild was a lot of work, but it went without a hitch - or so I thought." Upon splashing the boat, he found that the 350s he had put in made the Blackfin perform differently than with its original twin 302s - and way worse than with his buddy's single. "It would pound at high speeds, and it wanted to lay over on one side of the bottom's deep V," says a deflated Keith. Plus, repairs in the now-cramped engine room also became a bear. How did he deal with the disappointment? Simple. He sold it, purchased a significantly bigger 27' Blackfin, and started the rebuilding process over again, this time with much better results. From the now-happy Keith, "It's not the boat I dreamed of, but it's close enough."
Better Than I Remembered
While growing up on the rough waters off Long Island's south shore, one boat always stuck out to Charlie Johnson: the 31 Bertram. "With their great-looking lines and rough-water performance, 31 Bertrams were the boat to own!" he likes to tell anyone who'll listen. Too bad that back in the 1970s he was too young to own one. And when he finally could afford one, they were no longer being built. So the search was on. "I found the perfect boat right off, but I was outbid," says Johnson. "I kept looking over the next five years until, by chance, I ended up buying that first boat I saw." The gas-powered flying bridge fit his needs for a dependable, overbuilt, seaworthy fishing machine. So why sell it?
The problem with the 31 Bertram is that it's a fishing boat first with few comforts, and Johnson wanted to get his wife and three daughters out on the water with him. So he sold the Bertram and bought a bigger boat. "After three years with the big boat, my kids lost interest and I found myself staring at other people's Bertrams. I wanted my 31 back!" says the enthusiastic Johnson. This time it didn't take five years. A friend had just put his refurbished Bahia Mar Express on the market. The boat was just what Johnson wanted, and after a little bargaining it was his. It had new Yanmar diesels, dripless shaft seals, new running gear, and a generator. The only thing that needed work was the interior and the paint on the hull. "This second 31 has exceeded all my expectations," says Johnson. "I can easily fish it alone with its open layout, and it runs faster while burning much less fuel than the bigger boat."
Johnson is confident that he's finally found the boat he'll keep for the rest of his life. He may say he believes in catch-and-release, but when he finally lands that elusive 50-pound striped bass, I'm sure he'll hold onto it with as tight a grip as he has on his Bertram.