Giving new life to an old boat – Delmarva Daily Times

When I was kid I really loved bay fishing from our family’s 14-foot skiff. But after a few years of drooling over the catches I’d see coming off the offshore boats, I eventually talked my father into stepping up to a 19-foot center console with a 140 hp outboard and enough fuel capacity to run as far offshore as the weather and our courage would allow us to go in a boat of that size.

For the next 10 years, every hour of the summer that the weather was right and I wasn’t working, I was in that boat being pushed around by the same motor. I don’t know how much time I racked up on that outboard but I know I milked every bit of life out of it that was mechanically possible. After 10 years of faithful service the outboard certainly didn’t owe me a thing, so I wasn’t surprised when little problems started cropping up here and there in the 11th season.

Offshore fishing is a passion that requires a safe and reliable vessel. Unfortunately for me, even though my boat was in great shape, I could no longer leave the dock with a high level of confidence that my old motor would bring me home without incident.

When I finally realized that I was running offshore on friends’ boats more than skippering my own I knew I had to make a change. But there was no way I could afford a new boat, and I didn’t want to run the risk of buying a used boat and inheriting someone else’s problems.

I also had to deal with the issue of what to do with my old boat that, while it was still in great shape, would be difficult to get a good price for considering it had a cranky 11-year-old motor hanging off the back.

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It didn’t take me too long to come to the conclusion that my best move would be to keep my old boat and re-power it with a new motor. And that’s exactly what I did, after 11-years the old 140 came off the back and was replaced by a shiny new 150 hp Mercury.

While I was at it, I went ahead and replaced every bit of wiring, fuel lines, battery, steering and control cables. In other words every bit of mechanical or electrical equipment on the boat came off and was replaced with new.

While some might question the decision to re-power rather than replace an older boat, I know that when I was finished with the project I was never more satisfied with the boat’s performance or confident in its reliability. And for the next 3 years I used that boat inshore, offshore, or anywhere I wanted to go without mishap or breakdown.

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After 14 years, I finally sold the boat to help pave the way for the purchase of a bigger vessel to use for charter fishing.

I still miss that boat, and 15 years after I sold it I was happy to hear from the fellow who bought it that the 1973 hull was still being used in New Jersey. Apparently after it left me, it was re-powered three more times.

The moral of the story is that just because you’ve got a tired, old, unreliable boat doesn’t mean that you have to rush out and buy an entirely new rig. Strip it down to nothing but a fiberglass hull, and as long as the vessel itself is sound (meaning it doesn’t have problems such as structural damage, rotting stringers, or anything else that might require major surgery and expensive repairs) putting a new outboard on the transom or a new inboard motor below the deck can literally spark fresh life into an old friend that will live on to provide many years of safe boating experiences.

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