It's ironic that the very boat I purchased in 2016 might have been one that I admired - and dreamed of owning - as a little kid riding shotgun in my father's motor boat in the 1980s.
I remember evening rides to Barrett Marine to gas up his 1960s-era Arkansas Traveler. We'd putter the two-or-so miles to the canal, motoring past the state park marina with its sailboats and - to a little boy - superyachts.
My brother, always a big fan of going fast, would marvel at the sparkly speedboats, very popular on the lake at the time. I'd have my eye on something else altogether: big, slow boats with a cabin. To me, the idea of ever getting off the boat was off-putting - I wanted nothing more than to stay out on the water forever. Hoisting the boat upon our return to the cottage would be the saddest part of my day. You're telling me some people have both a boat and a home? I'd watch the Chris-Crafts and the Carvers motor past and wonder why anyone would want anything else.
What a sight we must have been, my whole family packed into a small, decrepit motorboat, seemingly from yesteryear. I was probably only six or seven years old, but even then I understood that class distinctions could be made out on the lake, just as everywhere else. Some people had brand new houseboats, others were lucky to be in rickety rowboats with antique motors. We were at the lower end of the boating chain. When we were out on the lake waterskiing, or jumping waves on busier days on the water, it was easy to forget this; on trips into the marina to get gas, however, our status became very clear.
I remember looking up at the boating elite, sitting up on the decks of their yachts sunning themselves. I wondered if they were looking down at us, judging us. I also wondered if they could sense my envy.
"The reason so many of them are in the marina is because after you've spent that much money on a boat, you don't have the money for the gas to go anywhere," my grandfather would tell us. It didn't do much to curb my jealousy. Even in the marina, these people were waking up on a boat! Why couldn't that be us?
I remember reminding myself that my family was fortunate enough to have a cottage. Sure it was old - older than my father's boat, even. Sure it was in pretty decrepit condition: no insulation, old wiring, and no toilet facility. My father had told us what some of the boats in the marina cost - there were a few that might be worth more than our cottage! He tried to explain depreciation to me, but I was too little to understand.
Thirty years later depreciation has provided me with the opportunity to own a piece of history - and, very likely, a piece of my history, as well. My 'new' home is a 1977 Trojan F36 Tri-Cabin. It spent various parts of its life in Waterloo, New York, moored at Barrett Marine - the very marina in which I, as a little boy, would stare at houseboats and cabin cruisers and dream.
I remember a few boats with benches on the bow. That looked so cool - my father's boat barely had enough seats for the four of us, and they were old and uncomfortable - at least two of the seats pinched our bottoms with every wave we hit. For a pleasureboat, there certainly was a lot of pain! I looked at the these yachts with their comfortable, cushioned benches molded right into their fiberglass decks and wonder what it must feel like to lounge up there.
I remember one in particular because on it sat three young girls, not much older than my brother and I. I remember looking up and waving, as people on the water often do. The girls did not wave back. Instead, one made a disparaging remark about our boat. Snobbery at its finest.
My 'new' boat has such a bench. It is quite comfortable. I looked at it during the walk-through and couldn't help but wonder if this was the same boat I'd been insulted from decades before...
My grandfather had the foresight to purchase lakefront land when it was cheap in the 1930s. His friends made fun of him, even calling it "Dick's Folly", in part because the land he bought had nothing more than a dusty old dirt road leading to it. He build a boathouse for his sailboat before he left for World War II, and added a kitchen and bedroom to it when he returned. When he died in the late 1980s some of them approached my grandmother with offers to purchase it. She didn't sell it, telling people it would never leave our family.
My grandfather probably knew in the 1930s that lakefront land would be valuable one day, but that didn't matter - he, like me, just loved the water. Over the years his 1930s-era cottage, complete with tap water drawn from the lake and an outhouse on the hill, became a relic of sorts on the east side of Seneca Lake. Its presence in my life made me appreciate two things: the water, and classic, antique type stuff.
It turns out that my father wasn't wrong - the value of lakefront property increases from year to year, while the value of boats does not. Our summer cottage is worth much more in 2016 than it was in the 1980s. And my 1977 Trojan F36 Tri-Cabin, once a jewel in the marina, is likely nearing the end of its life.
Still, the moment I saw it on Craigslist I had a flashback to the 1980s. I saw myself in a boat, as a little boy, looking up from that Arkansas Traveler, dreaming of living on the water one day.
In a moment of clarity I told myself I had to own it.
So, staring in August 2016, my new 'home' will be a classic, almost 40 year-old cabin cruiser.
Wave to me if you see me out on the lake - I promise to wave back.