When we first bought our place up on one of the Finger Lakes we had all we could do to furnish it and make ends meet on two homes. The thought of getting a boat was far from our minds. Also, many of our friends upstate had boats and we were often guests on their vessels. Another point to be made – we noticed right off that our friends with boats were consumed with this boat business – when to put it in the water/when to take it out; where to store it over the winter; trailers; shrink wrap or no shrink wrap; the canvas covers – what whirly-gig to put on the cover to keep the birds from dropping messages; whether to moor the boat off shore or get a slip/hoist; and on and on.
So for several years we put aside even mention of a boat. Then one day while test driving a PT Cruiser over in Auburn (northwest of our lake) we were driving on a country road and passed a boat (maybe 14 feet – an outboard) on the side of the road with a “For Sale” sign on it. I have no idea how it happened – it was like we were possessed – we bought the used boat. I told the better half it was a birthday present. When finally we got it in the water we had no end of problems with it. The good news was that the couple that we bought the boat from would come out to our camp and Lance would work endless hours on trying to fix the boat and Nancy would sit at the water with us and we’d have a great time – imagine! Years later we still say that although the boat didn’t work out we got grand friends in the bargain. The boat never did run.
A few years later I was out and about by myself for a day and decided to visit the big Bass store in the Finger Lakes Mall. I came across a pontoon boat that I truly liked – spent a long time with the salesman discussing this and that. He told me he only had the floor model available in the one I liked. I said I didn’t want a floor model – could he order in a new one. Told no I left the Bass store not a happy camper – ha, get it – ‘camper’. Never mind.
Coming back to the Village of Skaneateles I went by the Sailboat Shop – a small boat place where I was sure the cost of even an oar would be prohibitive. Into the lot I go anyway. There on the side of the building is a 22 foot pontoon boat all done up in a Harley Davidson motif – beautiful. Within days I brought the better half to see it – long story short, we bought the boat.
The pleasure we have derived from the Harley is immeasurable – the kids and grandkids have spent endless hours of tubing and cruising (as have we) on this delightful boat. Yet we now have to live each year through the dilemma – when should we put the boat in the water – take it out – cover it up – yadda, yadda, yadda. This year has been a particularly difficult year boat wise. The water levels on the lake were so high that we couldn’t get our docks in, consequently – no boat in; when we could go pickup the Harley from the marina – we no longer had a dingy as the small rowboat that we use to get back and forth to the mooring had several holes in it due to damage suffered over a very hard winter; finally we paid to have the Harley brought down to our mooring – the people from the marina had forgotten to turn off the battery switch and the battery went dead; the marina staff towed the Harley back to the marina and put in a new battery; while back at the marina it was noticed that there was a tear in the canvas cover – fixed for about 150 bucks; the Harley back on the mooring we come home to Jersey a few weeks back only to get a call a few days later – ‘There was a bad storm last night – the chain broke on the mooring and the Harley is about a mile south on the lake’ ; boat towed back to marina; new mooring installed ($$$$$); leave camp just five days ago – call comes –‘Canvas repair didn’t hold – new custom cover estimate - $1,100.00.
This Tuesday just gone we sat at river’s edge at the Boondocks in Red Bank looking out at the Navesink River – the boats going here and there, noticed the slips that were sitting empty. Says I to the better half, “You know we could put the Harley in one of those slips, wouldn’t have to worry about a mooring and we’d be right here in Shrewsbury if something went wrong.” “Yeah”, says the better half, “but we’d still have to store it, replace the canvas top from time to time, have it winterized, etc.”
The couple we were dining with (also with a home on Skaneateles Lake and two boats up there) were smiling at us and doubtless thinking just what we were thinking – “Boat people are crazy – crazy to have boats, crazy to put up with all the nonsense – yet, really CRAZY about their boats.
C.M. McLoughlin, a writer and editor from New Jersey and New York, can be reached at email@example.com.