Burton on the Bay:

The Trouble with Boats

I might be ol' 'nuff t'be the Ancient Mariner, 'n my scraggly gray 'n white-bearded puss might match what y'd think 't be the Ancient Mariner, 'n I might be ancient, but I ain't no mariner in no technical way. Never wuz, never'll be.

Y'see, I got this thing about boats, all boats, anyth'n that floats. My think'n is if it ain't fitt'n for fish'n, 'n crab'n, it ain't fitt'n for noth'n.

So no sense 'n ask'n me if I'm tak'n in the big powerboat show in Annapolis 'cause I'd say no quicker'n you can turn the switch on your 34-foot tub 'propriately called the Sump Pump.

Can't say I wouldn't 'preciate a peek at some of 'em fish'n boats there, say one of 'em fancy Grady Whites, but I'd hav'ta weed through an awful lot o' what is curiously called "pleasurecraft," a word in my way o' think'n is an oxymoron.

I kinda like that word "oxymoron" when it comes t'boats. The last part of it - and I hadda look it up in Websters - pretty much fits my think'n 'bout them who buy boats fer sump'n other than fish'n 'n crab'n.

That's pleasure, fish'n 'n crab'n is. It's extra pleasure when done on a boat fitt'n for catch'n crabs 'n fish. But most boats ain't fitt'n fer fish'n, catch'n, 'n dipp'n 'n net'n. Fer that, y'gotta get a real bonafide fish'n boat, of which there ain't many these days.

Compromise might be OK when it comes t'things at the UN, or mebee in those 'peachment proceed'ns in Washington, but it's raisn'n all kinds o' hell in the Boat'n Industry. Y'see, today when it comes t'buy'n a boat, it's gotten t'be a family matter, which any fisherman smart 'nuff to bait up can plainly see means fish'n considerations have gone to th'dogs in a crab basket.


Fish'n Ain't No Family Business

Them fellas who sell cars tells us that women 'n the rest o' the family play big in the decision to buy a jalopy t'get the family back 'n forth to school, work 'n mebee to go visit'n, drive to the pitcher show, or whatever.

Y'might think there ain't much wrong with that s'long as the vehicle is big enough to hold Ma 'n Pa 'n, Granma 'n all the kids, the family hound, 'n anythin' else - and also's got 'nuff power 'n brakes to trailer 'n launch a fish'n boat. But it ain't so.

The family veh'cle, you see, is made fer gett'n from here t'there. And back again - tho some families hav'ta have one fancy 'n spensive enough to make the neighbors green.

That's when trouble starts. Ma sez the trailer hitch can't go on the stern bumper, it ain't stylish. Futh'rmore it hides the vanity plate that brags PAIDFOR, which she's got t'think'n will impress the Joneses down the street or anyone else she 'n Pa pass on dry land.

And I ask ya, what's a car without a boat trailer hitch? And, I'll tell ya, it's nuth'n, t'all. If y'ain't got a way o'hitch'n a boat t' the car, y'gotta go out 'n buy a slip at a dock somewhere, 'n that costs a lot - so much that y'can't buy that fancy car in the first place. And mebbe can't afford t'pay that 25 bucks fer the vanity plate.

Daughter Sally 'n her brother Will want sump'n that looks like a souped-up sports car. It's gotta have the 'mpressive letters read'n "turbo-charged" on the stern, 'n it's gotta be small to be like them sports cars, which means y'won't have enough room inside t'cart along that big fish chest t'bring home the catch o' crabs 'n fish.

Furth'rmore, if y'got one o' them sports cars 'n y'start to trailer that nifty Parker fish'n boat that's big 'n seaworthy 'nuff to get y'fishing on the Chesapeake when a nor'easters howl'n, goin' down the road in a toy car with a big boat'll look like the tail wagg'n the dog.

And at the ramp when it comes t'pullin' that boat outta the water loaded with fish 'n crabs the car engine 'n transmission will make those funny squeal'n noises that'll get everyone look'n your way, but at least you'll get some attention so's somebody can use a cellular phone to call AAA for you.

If Granma is liv'n t'home, she gets her say, 'n for a while y'think she's in your corner. She wants one of them comfy big 'n powerful road hogs 'cause she's got rhumat'sm 'n can't get her legs all cramped up.

But it hits the fan when she sezs she don't want no fish, crabs, bait, or smoke smell in the car 'cause she's got the allergies - 'n her vote counts 'cause she's kick'n in some of the down payment. Futh'rmore, she don't want no trunk all cluttered up 'cause she supplements her old age pension by bein' an Avon Lady 'n she wants t'store her samples in the stern.

So it ain't as trouble-free as y'think in lett'n the family in on the buy'n of the new jalopy, which when y'pay fer, costs so much y'can't afford 'nother one t'tow the boat. But it's even worse when it comes to the family's tak'n part in decid'n on buy'n the boat, which the Boat'n Industry sez is 'bout as popular as everybody t'home new car shopp'n.

Y'want a boat with a cockpit big enough to tend a crab'n trot line, t'fight fish 'n lay out the fish'n gear 'n that big cooler that keeps the suds cold, but Ma gets to grip'n about why waste space on a cockpit when it can be used for a bigger cabin to entertain the envious Joneses who've only got a skiff - and futh'rmore, she needs a big galley t'cook - 'n you know in the end you'll be eat'n in the yacht club.

Lit'l Sally wants alot o' bunks so she 'n her friends can do sleep-overs, which means the cockpit gets even smaller. Will makes his pitch; he's gotta have a towbar so he'n his chums can water ski, or worse give you heart failure by tow'n a kite with him hang'n on 200 feet above the brine when y'see the bridge just ahead.

That towbar wipes out any fish'n possibilities regardless of how big the cockpit is - 'n the souped up engine needed for such things means y'can't cut back t'troll'n speed.

Granma don't want no boat in the first place, the moisture kicks in the rheumatiz, futh'rmore people at the docks ain't interested in Avon cosmetics, all they want is tans, and futh'rmore still, the moola could go to a bigger car when she makes her sell'n rounds shoreside.

Then th'worse o' all can happen like when I met a guy at the Maryland Yacht Club t'other night who got hitched, bought a boat, 'n then his wife says she don't want it messed up with no fish, crabs, slime, chum 'n such, so when he wants t' fish he has t'charter, but can't afford to 'cause o' the payments on the boat.

So, am I gonna take in the boat show? If y'know the answer it ain't no question.

Editor's note: In this week's column, Burton entertains himself and his editor with the speech patterns of one of the old backwood boys. Are you entertained? Call, write or e-mail to say if you want more: P.O. Box 358, Deale, MD 20751 · 410/867-0304 [email protected].

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VolumeVI Number 41
October 15-21 , 1998
New Bay Times

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