Boat Repair Adventures

by: Capt. Tim Ramsey

The first thing I need to do is apologize for being away from the column for a few months. Last we met, I told you of the adventures of my boat during Hurricane Ian and my upcoming trip to survey the damage. Well, I-95 seemed a vortex that thrust me into a boat repair adventure, a tedious and often frustrating senior care process, a prolonged and often irritating fishing experience, and total discombobulation as to time, space, and purpose.

When I arrived in Florida days before New Year’s, the boat was a mess. Nothing seemed broken but there was some minor gelcoat damage, brush piled high against it and intertwined in the trailer brakes and tires, and a mildewed cover. After speaking to the marina manager where the boat sits on the trailer, he revealed the boat and trailer had spun around a few times during the storm and ended up about a hundred feet from its original position. There was a distinct waterline left by the dirty water and I can only surmise since the straps for the full cover were looped around the trailer frame, the cover kept the boat on the trailer. I hadn’t put the stern straps on it for trailering since it was only sitting in the yard going back and forth to the ramp. The waterline went only as far as the top of the stern scuppers and nowhere near the fuel vent. I removed the cover, and everything seemed intact, except the trim tab keypad, which looked like it took a shot from a hammer.

The leaning post seat cushion was a horror movie, and the bilge was another freak show. Normally, you see bright gelcoat in the bilge because yes, I’m one of those boat owners. I removed the plastic bin under the stern hatch and almost had a coronary. Black, greasy, mildewy scum was on everything. Bottom of the bilge was sandy, oily, and disgusting. I came up with a game plan.

First, get the tires off the trailer and service the brakes and lights. As I tried to crank the boat down onto the trailer ball, I broke the handle off the tongue jack. I got to see the inner workings of that device, clean and grease it and replace the handle. Ironically, I spent over $1800 on trailer maintenance three months before the storm. Lots of good it did. I rinse the brakes after every time it goes in the water, but they sat after the storm and the rotors took some time to recover.

Next, clean everything. Took about four days. All the while, the first lady of fishing and I were anxious to get out fishing. At some point, the voice in my head repeating “spray nine is your friend” replaced the music from my Sirius radio.

Then I checked out all the systems. Engine got fluid changes and worked perfectly. Batteries charged up nicely. Power pole was good, as was the jack plate. Trolling motor, not so much. Replaced the trim tab keypad but they were still uncooperative.

Taking a deep breath in anticipation of the upcoming expenses and anxious to see some snook, we fixed the trolling motor first and went fishing for a few days. Then, money started pouring out of the wallet. New steering box and control panel for the trolling motor. Found out the new trim tab keypad didn’t talk to the old control box, so I replaced it. Gravy. Replaced two frozen live well pumps. Fixed a gelcoat issue on the hull bottom near the stern. Replaced three worn out hatch pistons. Replaced the ignition switch. Replaced the leaning post seat cushion. Remounted the skimmer transducer. Replaced two rusted-out trailer rims.

Ordered a new full cover. Ordered a new buffer, gelcoat, sealant, wax, and a purple-colored coating for the nonskid.

Nonskid. Yeah. On my model boat, they should call it the “white-colored abrasive places designed to hurt your feet and skin your knuckles when you clean it.” Bright side? I haven’t fallen off like I did on other boat models.

Finally, the boat was clean, working, and we were ready to catch fish. Or so we thought. Full moon, strong winds, mega-sunny days, dirty water, a bit of red tide, jet-skis in the backcountry, and a fishing partner that is adamant about “not going too early.” Yeah. In my mind, the sun comes up and finds you out on the water. Yep. Uh. No. Not this trip. We managed to pull our fair share of backcountry slams and a surprise fish or two, but I’m determined to do better.

I thought Murphy might have left me behind, but he found me again. High winds, chop, and dirty water meant I didn’t get to run the traps for tripletail at all in January or February. Broke a rod, Mr. Simrad had a seizure I had to deal with, the battery compartment cover on my trolling motor remote decided to just fall off one day, now held on with medical tape. I blocked the road coming into the marina for ten minutes while my trailer refused to reverse, and the brake system lockout key wouldn’t go in the slot. Later, I bled the trailer brakes twice before I finally figured out how they were installed. New buffer arrived missing parts. Took the boat out of the marina for two days and someone took my parking spot. Crushed an extension cord with the truck. Oh well. That’s life and owning a boat. One day at the marina, someone said “your boat’s gleaming.” It better be!

Fast forward and I’m reacquainted with the best places to run aground, catch oyster clusters, get waked by lines of jet skis and people running the backcountry that just don’t care, the limits of my sunglasses and sunblock, and the shoes I bought just for using on the boat. I also got to watch my wife cast under the mangroves better than anyone, then giggle as she retrieved each fish with rod at her hip. Gravy. What do they say about when the student becomes the master?

See you out there.