Welcome, dear readers, to the very first installment of ‘Mistakes I’ve Made’. I originally thought about doing an article or two… then I realized that ‘Mistakes I’ve Made’ would likely be a reoccurring feature detailing some of the things I’ve done wrong. I’ll eventually get around to doing things I’ve done right list as well, but the stupid mistakes I’ve made generally make for better stories.
I hope to inspire you with this series to avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made, or at least, as you can see in the case of The Boat and me… you can make the exact same mistake that I made, and the whole time know that someone told you to avoid that very mistake!
Which takes us to the story of The Boat.
But of course, the story of The Boat does not begin with my boat. No, it begins three years before I bought The Boat, with my good friend Steve buying a boat. Steve was a buddy of mine in college, who was a bit older and had been around. Steve went from a tiny Ford Probe to a big Dodge Ram after college. When I asked Steve why he went from the Probe to a big truck, his immediate response was that he planned to buy a boat. Awesome. What could be better than having a buddy with a boat?
A few years later, Steve sold the boat. And got rid of the truck. At this point in time, we were roommates in Southern California. And we had a conversation that went something along these lines:
Me: Hey I’m thinking about buying a boat.
Steve: I don’t recommend it, man. I had that boat for a couple years, and it was more trouble than it was worth. I thought it would be a ton of fun, but it ended up costing me a lot of money.
Me: I’m dumb and I’m going to buy a boat anyway!
That isn’t exactly how the conversation went, but I assure you, it’s pretty damn close. I had literally watched my friend deal with all the hassles of boat ownership, and all the associated costs that go along with it, then thought to myself: let me do that exact same thing. Seriously. Let’s take a look at how I went about this debacle:
Step 1. Find a boat. Now, in my defense, I was living in Southern California, was single, and had a job. Also to my credit, I decided that getting a used boat was the better option so I wouldn’t take on too much debt. (in fact, now I’m thinking about it, I’ll have to make a separate post about buying things new vs used, and whether or not that’s been an advantage)… So the boat I wanted to buy was a moderately used Bayliner for about $7,000. But that boat got sold before I had a chance to make an offer. Because it was a good boat for the money. Already committed to my course of action, I went and found… The Boat. Now, at only $3,500 she sure was a steal. Boat found. Step 1 complete.
Step 2. Begin doing maintenance on The Boat. This is the step where I learned that maintenance on a sterndrive (inboard/outboard) is a severe pain in the ass. Why is that? BECAUSE ITS IN A BOAT. ON A TRAILER. Take for instance changing the oil… which by the way had the consistency of poorly refined crude oil from the Tar Sands in northern Canada. In a car, changing that oil means removing an appropriately named item called the ‘drain plug’ from the ‘oil pan’ and letting the oil drain. Now, of course, you let this drain into a catch can and then dispose of used oil properly at a recycling facility. However, with a boat, the engine is in the boat as I mentioned above, which means that a pump is required to suck the used oil out of the engine and oil pan. So, of course, I had to buy a pump – the one I bought connected to a power drill. And then draws the used oil out of the oil pan through a tube which is run down where the oil dipstick goes. Which takes forever. I look forward to the comments section. I honestly hope there is a better way to change the oil on a boat.
Step 3. Oh, did I forget to mention that when I first purchased The Boat I did not have a way to move it? Did I forget? Well, when I bought The Boat, I was driving a 1992 Chevy S-10 with the worst V-6 Chevy ever made. 125hp? Yeah, buddy! Towing capacity? Maybe… a couple thousand? I’m not sure. It had the manual 5 speed. Anyway, not enough to tow The Boat. So I had to buy… Truck 2. Truck 1 was the S-10. I have no real complaints about that, as I got it used when I was in high school, and it never let me down, despite the crap engine. But in terms of cost, it cost me very little money in total, especially considering it had over 110,000 miles on it when I sold it… For a case of beer and a night of boozing. So I had to buy Truck 2. Truck 2 cost me a cool $13,000 or so… and was badass. And a transmission which immediately died on me.
For the record, I still believe that generation of Chevy and GMC trucks had the best proportions of any pickup truck ever. Newer trucks have much larger grills for cooling, but I feel like they look out of proportion.
But back to Truck 2. I bought Truck 2 to tow The Boat. And the transmission promptly went to hell on me. So that was another $2,000 out of my pocket. Plus the repairs for The Boat. Now mind you at this point in time I also had a classic Mustang (1969) that broke a lifter pushrod.
So at this point in time… I owned a Truck, The Boat, and a classic Mustang and was making payments on all three of these vehicles. And not one of them was running.
Step 4. Actually, go have some fun.
I took the boat out a few times. Lake Havasu, Big Bear Lake, once on the ocean but I can’t remember where we dropped it in. It was a lot of fun, for sure. I ran the math – the total all-in cost of The Boat, Truck 2, and all the associated BS that went along with both of those things was probably $20,000 in 2002-2006, which if I had invested that money in the market would be worth probably $40,000-$60,000 right now. I’ll have a separate post where I try to determine if my decision to buy used has actually worked in my favor or not. At a gut level, I think that in general my typical decision to buy used has benefitted me in on the net.
Of course, no post about The Boat would be complete without a discussion of Truck 2’s constant overheating when towing the boat. Yes, you read that correctly. The truck I specifically bought for towing The Boat would overheat when doing exactly that. Which always made for fun trips to wherever we were taking The Boat.
Eventually, I towed The Boat all the way across the United States – from California to Virginia. All the way. And then promptly put The Boat in dry storage. And took it out and enjoyed it… exactly never. Seriously, I pulled The Boat across the entire continent to pay to store it, and never use it. I am glad I don’t actually know Suze Orman, or I’m pretty sure she would slap me silly for this maneuver.
And then I sold The Boat. And by ‘sold’ I mean I called up a salvage yard and said “Come take this boat. I have a clear title in hand.” The reason I did this is that as I mentioned earlier, the boat was pretty well beat down and crappy when I first bought it, and my dreams of putting in some elbow grease and sweat to make it something nice never materialized.
So I drove over to dry storage, opened the gate, and let two good ole’ country boys from Bobby’s Salvage Yard take The Boat. And finally, I was free of that albatross which hung around my neck, much like in the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Morale of the story: Don’t buy a boat.