The Sportsman’s Corner: Joys of boat ownership

Published: 8/5/2022 10:49:18 AM
Modified: 8/5/2022 10:46:11 AM

The common definition of a boat, given by those who have owned one or two, is that they are defined as “a hole in the water you pour money into.” There does always seem to be something that needs attention, be it a repair or an added accessory. There are some, but not this wise writer, who also note that boats are addressed as females. Not going there! Boats do really bring enjoyment and great hours of fun recreation both fishing and just cruising.

The first boat we invested in was a chance event when it was spied parked at Piragis Motors with a for sale sign on the windshield. It was an 18½-foot aluminum ProCraft Fish ’n’ Ski powered by a 115 HP Mariner outboard and equipped with a MotorGuide trolling motor. It was being sold to settle an estate and the price was right. We took out a loan against the equity in my life insurance and it provided 30 years of use. It was perfect for Lake Ontario and could be used for fishing off the coast for stripers. Most of the time, it took me around the pond bass fishing and excelled at pulling kids and guests tubing on summer days. The deck was replaced when the plywood got punky, and the new carpet looked like new. Every year, it answered the bell and was regularly maintained and ran great. A lot of little repairs and no major breakdowns.

When an upgrade presented itself, we went to a fiberglass boat with a sterndrive or inboard/outboard. Both big changes! The 18½-foot aluminum boat weighed 1,300 pounds, the 20-foot 8 inch I/O weighs 2,800 pounds. There are many differences. The I/O is powered by a General Motors small block 307 cubic inch V/8. Service needs are different, and winterization is a big deal. Freezing temperatures can cause the I/O block to crack while an outboard can sit in the back yard and be no worse for it.

I/Os also have to be connected through the transom and that creates the possible passing of water by a leak and the system creates a challenge to most repairs that are easy to do on an outboard. This all came home to roost on my 2007 Tahoe when bellows, the part that is the pass through of exhaust from the motor, kept coming disconnected. This particular part did not create a threat of leak but was a pain. In addition, the pair of sensors that monitor the tilting of the drive were not doing the job of stopping halfway, which also puts extra strain on the bellows.

An appointment was made at Precision Water Sports in Gardner, a very busy place, and it was a couple weeks before they could get it in. That was not an issue as operating was not a problem until the repairs could be done. After dropping it off, they discovered quickly that there was, as it always seems in my history, a complication. One thing I made clear was that I wanted things fixed right and all issues addressed. What was discovered once the drive unit was removed for the repair was that, at some time, someone had taken a short cut and the lower gear oil monitor hose and fitting had been “gerry-rigged” — with predictable results. Unfortunately, the needed parts took over a week to arrive and the boat sat. However, once the parts were there, Steve Donahue, the main cog at Precision, took personal charge of the difficult job (there is NO room to work around that big V8) and made sure that the boat was ready for the weekend. (I may have let it slip out that we were having a big party to celebrate my daughter Jilly’s college graduation, new teaching job, and new apartment and the boat was a critical to many of those attending.)

After my experience at Precision Water Sports, it is clear that they are committed to doing a good job every time. The many interactions I had with Steve and Carissa made me glad I took my boat there. In addition to being a Mercury full-service shop, they sell quality new and used boats, including Manitou luxury pontoon boats and FLOE docks and boat lifts as well. The fact that they are close by is a plus, but it was the quality, commitment to detail and doing the best possible job, and customer service, that will keep me coming back. That, and the fact that everything on the Tahoe is working perfectly. We intend to make the best of the remaining summer we have left!

Mike Roche is a retired teacher who has been involved in conservation and wildlife issues his entire life. He has written the Sportsman’s Corner since 1984 and has served as advisor to the Mahar Fish’N Game Club, Counselor and Director of the Massachusetts Conservation Camp, former Connecticut Valley District representative on the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board, has been a Massachusetts Hunter Education Instructor and is a licensed New York hunting guide. He can be reached at

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