So, you have a nice skiff. Built out to your specs, laid out just the way you wanted it. It’s in perfect running condition, with no work needed. What do you do now? Sell it, of course. You sell it so you can by a 25-year-old boat and completely overhaul it, because that’s what sane people do, right? The boat in question is a ’95 Hewes Bonefisher in backyard-kept condition. The wiring was somewhere between rats’ nest and active fire hazard. The keel looked as though someone was practicing high speed beach invasion landings on a routine basis, and she overall just needed some love. I’ve spent a few hundred hours de-rigging, de-wiring, sanding, repairing fiberglass, and fairing out the wear and tear of the ages. You learn a lot when you spend that much time alone with nothing but the drone of a sander humming in your ears. You have a lot of time to think about the things that boat has seen, as you ponder just how in the hell someone took a chunk out of the hull in that spot. Was it a mishap with an anchor, or did someone bounce her off of a concrete piling? You wonder about all the cool fish that have been brought over her gunnels as you grind out the spider cracks in the gelcoat that obviously came from a jig head coming back at mach speed from whatever oyster rake, tree limb, or dock piling it was stuck on. And as you’re filling the myriad of holes in the deck from accessories, pedestal seats, Bimini tops, and god knows what else, you swear to yourself that you’ll never ever add useless shit back onto this boat. But you probably will.
Eventually, as your “fix-it” list grows shorter and you see her coming back into shape, the blemishes ironed out one by one, your focus changes. Now, you’re daydreaming about all the things you’re going to do with this skiff. All the places you’ll see in her, and all the awesome fish you’ll pull alongside, or over the gunnels. You stop seeing the beaten and battered past and start envisioning a bright and promising future. As you try to scrub the fiberglass shards out of your skin in the shower, you imagine the burn is from a long day on the water, and the pain in your arms and shoulders isn’t from the eight hours of sanding, but from fighting big tarpon all day. The boat is at the paint shop now, the one part of this project I’m incapable of completing myself, and it won’t even look like the same boat when it gets back. But I will always know what’s beneath the new coats of shiny paint and non-skid. I’ll always remember the time, aggravation, pain, and patience it took to revive her. And every time I hear an oyster scrape down the length of the hull, I’ll wince with pain, knowing full well the amount of work it will take to repair that because I’ve done it already. But that only means that it can be done (or undone as it were), and there is something comforting in that ability to undo damage, to revive once great things to greatness once again.