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Out In It: An old boat brings new memories, welcome distraction


June 5, 2020

My two oldest, Hannah and Joseph, were just kids when they saved up their pennies to buy their first boat. They split the cost of a 1984 Alumacraft with an old 50-horsepower Merc hanging off the back. I remember their beaming smiles and how proud they were of their “new” boat and how they had big plans to fix it up.

Then life got in the way. It was baseball, soccer, basketball or floor hockey season. Or boyfriends and girlfriends to spend time with. Or friends to hang out with. Or jobs, school, college, travel ... years zipped by. Then, unexpectedly, we all slowed down.

Shelter-in-place forced us to reevaluate our plans. The big trip to Banff and Glacier this summer, out the window. Joseph’s junior year of baseball, gone. Summer ball, gone. Hannah’s trip to Scotland, in peril. We gathered each morning around six computers at our kitchen table. Jamie and I teaching from afar, and all of our kids doing their best to learn digitally. We limited our contact with the outside world, venturing out only in the evenings, traveling in 50- to 100-mile loops exploring the area, attempting to kill time and boredom.

Then one morning, our focus changed. Hannah burst through the kitchen door, covered in debris, announcing that she had ripped the floor out of the old boat. Three years of big plans transformed into one morning of action. Quickly, new vinyl, glue, marine plywood, wiring, and paint were ordered and on their way. Life had paused long enough for us to tackle the project.

We enlisted our handiest family friend, Chad Vermeersh, and tore into the boat with gusto.

Day 1, we had the new floor cut, vinyled, and anchored. We also hung a “new to us” Yamaha 40-horse motor with tilt and trim. On Day 2 we ran all the wiring and worked on getting the livewell up and running. Our last afternoon we cut in a new electrical panel and fired up the lights, bilge, and trolling motor. Hannah and Joseph worked extremely hard to help transform the old boat into a water-ready fishing machine.

As I write this, I can see the newly revamped Alumacraft sitting in the yard. It’s ready for new adventures for years to come. The day I trailered it home for the kids four years ago was one of my proudest days.

Now, each day brings new reasons to be proud. Hannah and Joseph have grown fiercely independent. This is my first go-round with kids growing older. I imagine this is what it’s like teaching and guiding them forever, and, in an instant, they’re off on their own. I can hear Hannah pounding away on her computer, writing, or studying for her college degree in English education. Joseph is miles out on Lake Superior this morning helping to run the Team Crush charter boat as they chase trout and salmon.

Hannah will teach and write, Joseph will fish. I’ve passed on what I can.

Bret Baker is an award-winning outdoors columnist and lifetime resident of Cloquet. Email him at [email protected] with fishing questions or story ideas.


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