How I Got Into Boating – The Backwards Way.
This is a story about how Julie and I got into boating. I think it’s pretty backwards from how most people would expect someone to get hooked on boating. Let me explain.
I grew up in a town named Port Rowan, just two blocks from this small dock featuring boathouses of various shapes and sizes.
Now, I grew up in a town labeled as a “port”, only a few blocks from a small marina. You’d think this story would start off with me dramatically declaring I was practically born on a boat. Fell in love from my first day on the docks. The rest is history…
That story isn’t my story.
Two surprising things you should know about my life growing up two blocks from the water. The first, is that I can’t really swim. I know, I know. I hear it from Julie every day.
I remember taking some swimming lessons at the community pool when I was younger. I also spent a large number of days on the beach in Long Point – a short 10 minute drive from my house.
For one reason or another, I just never learned to properly tread water. I can think of no less than three times that I have almost drowned as an adult – but I’ll save those stories for another time.
I know there are people reading at this point that are thinking that as a responsible boat owner, I should learn to swim. It just seems obvious. First, Julie is a lifeguard. Full on certified and worked her entire high-school career saving drowning toddlers and telling kids not to pee in the pool. If she’s around, I’m pretty safe.
She’s also a swimming teacher – and the lessons happen each time I’m in the water. I can say I’m much better now, but it’s rare you’ll find me in the water without a floatation device of some kind.
The second thing that you’ll find surprising about growing up in Port Rowan, is that I can count the number of times I was on a boat on one had before I left for good to go to college. It’s even more surprising when you consider the amount of time I spent in surrounding towns that also had marinas and ports – like Turkey Point, Port Burwell, Port Dover, etc, etc.
Most people don’t understand how I grew up in, around and on dockside towns – and yet don’t swim or have boating experience. Believe me, I’m just as surprised as you.
I’m going to add a third surprising fact to this little expedition down memory lane: My father is a diver. He owned a diving boat that he built himself. I remember this boat being parked in our driveway for years when I was younger (under 10 years old). Every now and again a relative would pick it up and use it. I can only ever recall being on this boat once. It was when my dad took us all fishing – and it happened after he sold the boat to my uncle. Growing up in a family of 4 kids probably isn’t easy on the parents. I assume that’s why we didn’t do it much. What a hassle dragging 4 kids of various ages on the lake would be.
That’s how I didn’t get into boating – despite everything pointing in that direction. So how did it happen?
Julie and I moved to Kelowna, BC for work. That was the start of it. We had no intention of boating – at least not that I can recall.
Then the most amazing thing happened: We became friends with people that had boat. Our friends Mark and Janet invited us out on their boat, and from the first ride we were hooked.
That first summer, I told Julie we need to get a boat. Julie emphatically agreed. It was so much fun being out on the water. Doing it in a cabin cruiser that you could stay in over night just sealed the deal. We needed to get into the boat game.
But we didn’t. It just wasn’t financially feasible.
Mark and Janet would take us out every summer, and we’d have the same conversation every time about getting a boat of our own. This went on for years.
Finally, by the end of our 3rd summer, we just couldn’t wait any longer. We’d saved up a modest amount, and went shopping for a boat in the 24-26 foot range. This proved to be a bit problematic after being on Mark’s 30 foot Thompson, everything just felt like a compromise. They informed me this was “footitis”, and usually strikes cruisers after they buy a boat. (The theory is you always want a couple more feet.) Footitis struck us before we even bought a boat.
There were a lot of opinions about the type of boat for a beginner – and make no mistake, I was a beginner. I had now been on a boat maybe a dozen times, had no boat license, and had never driven a boat at all. Could I really handle something bigger than 24 feet? Is 24 feet too big?
We fell in love with a 1995 Larson 280 – you can check the pictures out right here. Those pics are from the sales listing – so that’s exactly as we bought it. It’s a 29 foot boat that just had the perfect cabin and cockpit layout we wanted. It was a little bit more money, but we just didn’t want to buy something smaller we didn’t like. (In another post, I’ll go through all the great things I love about our boat.)
After buying the boat, I had a bit of a panic attack. I called Mark and said “Uh, I may have bought too big of boat.”
He said not to worry – they always looked bigger when they were out of the water. He was right. He was great through the process. Came down and checked out the boat, showed me what work needed to be done, and taught me a few captain tips and tricks for controlling the boat.
After 4 years of boating, I’m not even close to being good at docking – but I’m definitely more confident when I’m in those situations. I don’t panic when the wind blows me around, and I only go as fast as I’m willing to hit the dock . (This is almost always just “in gear” with zero throttle).
That’s how we got into boating. It just takes the right experience at the right point in your life to turn you on to the most amazing hobby you’ll ever have. That, and a couple of good friends like Mark and Janet that made the process a whole lot easier.