I grew up playing on the Mississippi River and various lakes throughout the Midwest. My grandparents owned a boat house along the shores of the Mississippi River in the area of Brownsville, Minnesota which provided a garage on the water for my grandfather’s powerboat. I have fond childhood memories of sitting on my grandfather’s lap as he allowed me to drive the boat. The biggest thrill, for me at least, was when we went all the way to the bridge connecting La Crescent, Minnesota with La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Throughout my childhood my family would spend weekends traveling to nearby lakes to camp and fish. During the summer our vacations usually consisted of traveling to northern Minnesota. With Minnesota being the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” we did not lack in lake options, although we tended to return more often to some lakes over others.
Fast forward several years to my move to the mid-Atlantic region in my early thirties. It was the first time, in a very long time, that I lived near to a large body of water – the Chesapeake Bay – and I wanted to take advantage of the opportunities the Bay had to offer. A friend and I agreed to purchase a sailboat and found a used 27-foot Hunter sailboat we named “Gypsy Wynd”. I enjoyed sailing, not only for the gracefulness of sailing, but I liked that I wasn’t using any fossil fuels. I co-owned Gypsy Wynd, for a few years before selling my share in order to pay for a kitchen remodel in the house I had just purchased.
In the interim, I met the person who would later become my spouse. She owned two jet-skis and we most often rode on the Patuxent River in Maryland although occasionally we went to the Potomac River in the Tall Timbers, St. George’s Island, St. Clement’s Island area in Maryland. With our mutual love of the water, my spouse and I decided to purchase a home on the water in southern Maryland and moved to Hollywood in March of 2003.
During that first year we had only the two jet skis, which was ok except for the fact that the law requires jet skis to be off the water 30 minutes prior to sunset. This meant we always had an evening curfew. I will say honestly, there were a few occasions when we raced home in the twilight of the evening, hoping the water police had already packed up and gone home for the day. After that first summer we knew that we would need to purchase a boat. As a local Amish guy said of our home, “When you live with my people you need a buggy and when you live on the water you need a boat.”
Our first boat, which we considered as our “starter boat” was a small, 18.5-foot Sea Ray bow-rider. We now had a life on the water where we did not have a curfew to force us to leave earlier than we may have otherwise preferred. We used that boat throughout the summers of 2004-2006 and clocked over 200 hours on the Patuxent River.
From our experiences, we knew we needed a larger boat in order to allow us to do more traveling out into the Chesapeake Bay as well as provide a more comfortable ride during those days of rough water. In the spring of 2007 we purchased a Chaparral 260 SSi Bow-rider. We stuck with the bow-rider because, as I say, “We still have kids in our life that we want to abuse.” In my opinion, bow-riders are well suited for towing people on wakeboards, kneeboards, tubes, and skis. Also, the bow-rider seems to fit more people comfortably. As a friend pointed out, bow-riders provide better viewing; even while sitting in the back of the bow-rider it is fairly easy to see over the cockpit area and enjoy the views in front of the boat. With many “cabin boats”, rarely can you see anything beyond the cockpit area thus limiting your view to the sides and out the back.
We also did not feel as though we needed to purchase a boat that included a cabin where you, essentially, bring along a living room, kitchen, and bedroom. Why would we need a living room/ bedroom on the water? We already live on the water. If we wanted to stay overnight we would just stay with friends or find a hotel.
The summer of 2012 starts our sixth season with the Chaparral and we have now clocked over 415 hours of fun and adventure.
For several years I’ve wanted a boat that I never had to winterize. So often throughout the winter the usually mild weather of the mid-Atlantic would provide GORGEOUS days that would be perfect for boating… and I would be stuck on land with a winterized boat. Not being able to go out was like knife being stabbed in my heart. As a result I have just purchased a second boat with an outboard motor which means I now have access to a boat all year long.
The second boat is a hand-built wooden boat based on the designs of the 18-foot, Simmon’s Sea Skiffs built during the mid’50s through mid’70s, in North Carolina. The boat was built by our neighbor who, now almost 80, has been building wood boats since he was 18 years old. I also found out this neighbor used to be in the military special ops and his unit was the unit that became the Green Berets, so he is one of the ORIGINAL Green Berets … back before Green Berets got a bad rap. Several reasons led me to wanting this skiff: wood boat, hand-made, hand-made by my neighbor no less, unique motor well, striking curved transom, and most likely a boat you will not often see in our area.
“A Captain’s Chronicle” will bring you stories of my adventures and travels on the water in both the bow-rider and the sea skiff.