Such an announcement wouldn’t please most partners but that is not how this one went down. I really did catch a couple of succulent Dungeness crabs from the cold clear water of the Indian Arm fjord on the Pacific coast. And that wasn’t even the best part of the day.
I have been retired for a year now and have a niggling little FOMO motivator that gets me out motorcycling, hiking or boating a couple of times each week. Because I still take on some editing, writing, and reviewing work, I try my best to blend the work and pleasure. On warm clear days, rides in the country (to the extent Covid will allow) often end up at my favorite coffee patio with outlets and WiFi; evenings are hiking the mountain trails surrounding Simon Fraser University campus just outside our door. On overcast or misty days I really like being out boating in the watery solitude of the Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm Fjord. . . I even sometimes take the laptop along and do light work afloat.
From my various real estate deals, retirement investing, and work contracts I know that a science education doesn’t prepare one for business. So be it, I rationalize that the lifestyle is worth it. However, when I started boat shopping in the middle of Covid, it quickly became clear that I was not alone. EVERYONE wanted a boat at the very same time boat factories shut down, thus, boat inventories plummeted and prices spiked to retail +30%. It was a trigger that even a bad businessman like me could not pull. I must say, I enjoyed the daydreaming and homework that preceeds such a purchase. All I wanted was a used 24-foot welded aluminum fishing boat with a weatherproof cabin and a 200 hp outboard. Something like this:
All the research, saving, on-line seamanship courses (there would be some light bluewater fishing on calm days), safety gear purchases etc. were for naught until I stumbled across the “Freedom Boat Club” (FBC). That their dock of 21 boats was 11 minutes down the hill from our condo seemed convenient. It is a coop of sorts wherein for a monthly fee of $470 and a one-time membership fee of $4500, I can boat as often as I want with no other charges except fuel. Hmmm . . . is this too good to be true? I don’t have to insure, maintain, clean, fuel, bottom de-foul, winterize, or pay mooring fees? I ran a spreadsheet and FBC costs less than 1/3 of ownership of similar boats. Furthermore, there is no shopping, storage, worries when out of town, launching & towing issues, depreciation, or the pain of selling an old used boat. Hell, the mooring fees alone would have been 2/3 of the monthly membership fee. I joined.
The FBC fleet by our house has eight 22–24 foot fishing boats; a quartet of ski boats; six cruisers; and a pair of 11-person party barges all with 150–225 hp engines. They have 7 more in North Vancouver across the bay. They are all purchased new and sold after 18 months of use. Brunswick Corp. is the owner/supplier and they make Mercury Outboards, thus, plenty of good, new, big 4-stroke engines capable of idling on 3 cylinders for fuel efficiency.
Clearly, there are some people who simply love fooling with their boats so they scrub, wax, polish bright work, tune up engines, polish props, etc. Sometimes the boat mainetnance equals the time spent on the water. I am not one of those people. Like walking slowly up an escalator the wrong way, my repairs typically cause a domino effect of other things breaking. The Waddington Effect is strong with me. Hal Waddington was an ecologist who served in the British Royal Airforce and his take home message was that overly frequent routine aircraft maintenance was a primary cause of subsequent engine failure. https://blog.aopa.org/aopa/2014/01/14/the-waddington-effect/) If it ain’t broke . . .
The club keeps a ratio of 1 boat to eight members so as membership increases, boat numbers rise. I can reserve up to four use-dates (after using one date, I can immediately reserve another date) and anytime I want to just check in, I can see if there is a boat available due to cancellation or no-show and go take it out even without a reservation. In the last five times of such impromptu inquiries I have never failed to secure a boat. Furthermore, because I am pasty Nordic and melanin-impaired, the glaring sun is my enemy. I love the solitude and lack of other boats on rainy days, thus, overcast days are my preference and the fish and crabs care little about what happens at the surface.
At the risk of sounding like an infomercial — there is more . . . like country clubs or Rotary organizations, this FBC membership is recognized at all 275 marinas where they occur. Marinas range from Seattle to Nova Scotia; from Florida Keys to Virginia, Arkansas, the Great Lakes, and even coastal France. Just reserve, show up and take out the boat. The clubs also offer unlimited free boating training for saltwater cruising, chart-reading, tide calculations, anchoring, docking, backing, etc. Because each boat has an emergency radio the club also offers a free tow and retrieve service if you ever have troubles while out. As a long time advocate of “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is” I await the other shoe falling but in talking to other long time members they surreptitiously whisper “This is the best secret on earth!”. Thusly, I feel like I have fallen into a vat of butter.
Yesterday I took a 24’ Thunderjet boat with a 200 hp outboard up the fjord to soak some crab and prawn traps, then anchored out to exercise my cell coverage, and did an extended interview to massage into a book chapter. Concience salved, I relaxed into the Zen of the environment. I also took out the camera I like to have handy when on the boat, even though I worry about what salt environments might do to all the delicate camera electronics. So I shot some photos as the water-obsessed dog swam circles around the boat. The lithe and slippery seals must have pitied her aquatic ineptitude.
Brant’s and Pelagic Cormorants dipped around and Pigeon Guillemots kept their distance.
A mature Bald Eagle kept cruising over me expectantly suggesting someone has been feeding him fish guts. Earlier I had seen possibly the same bird trying to earn his fish through hard work by pursuing an osprey for a little kleptoparasitism. Sorry for the badly backlit phot but things were happening rather fast at this moment.
Lunch came out early — an overstuffed cold roast beef sandwich adorned with the obligatory West Coast avocados and spicy mustard. A thermos of coffee and a honey crisp apple (thanks New Zealand!) topped the meal. There is something about the sound of water on a gentle rocking hull, a full stomach, and a few warming sun patches that drew me to sleep on the bench seat while the dog snored on a folded moving pad. The 3 meter rising tide was returning and my anchor moved a bit. I had been stingy with the rode and knew it so I had to pay out more line. Once re-secured, I settled in and read for a couple of hours. This crab fishing is not such hard work after all.
Naomi called and wanted to be picked up at the dock after work — no retirement for that one! She has three years left in her academic dean appointment. I really didn’t forecast the convenience of this geography. There are cell towers on the hills so we have coverage for the first half hour out of the marina where we fish. In fact, in the photo below, our condo is right on the ridgeline above Naomi’s right ear. A bike ride or hike down to the marina is not out of the question. There is a bus service back up too.
I motored the 5 km back to get her at a leisurely pace trying to optimize trim and RPM to get the best possible litres-per-hour in relation to km per hr. The math is not dirt simple but between 1500 and 5000 RPM redline there seems a sweet spot around 3200 RPM putting the hull comfortably on step with just enough juice to trim 1/2 of the bottom out of the water. The wheel feel suggests it is a good speed too since steering is neutral and loose and it takes wakes and waves very smoothly with no plowing.
We had three hours of daylight so we cruised to see some of the higher end coastal houses near town then headed up to check traps. The first trap had two respectable Dungeness crabs, the first Naomi had ever seen and she recoiled as if seeing the largest spider one earth. One undersized female went back in the drink, the other I put in the boat’s built-in live well. The next trap had two boys in it but one was undersized, leaving us with two healthy big supper crabs. While I am sure I am more intelligent than crabs, the jury is out about outsmarting prawns. Zilch in those two traps but I think I am out of my depth. I need more line to get the traps down 150 meters or so.
The typical Pacific crab boil is to boil them in seawater for 15 minutes then crack and dip the sweet crab leg and body flesh in butter and lemon. We took a different tact by giving them the Cajun treatment. First we dosed up the boiling water with Zatarains crab boil from Louisiana, added lemons and Worcestershire sauce, let the potatoes boil for 20 minutes, added in the corn and crabs for 15 then turned it all off to let them soak for another 10 minutes. I unfolded a cardboard box on the kitchen table and we used fingers and pliers to crack and extract lumps of fresh crab to dip into a spicy ketchup/horse radish/pepper/lemon juice mixture. Even as I type this I can smell my well-washed hands for a faint whiff of cayenne.
At the end of this month we have a 3-day boat reservation to go out to visit friends on Vancouver Island. The boat has a spacious cuddy that will easily sleep two at the marina where we will have washrooms, fresh water and plenty of restaurants within walking distance.
Far better for Covid safety and lodging costs to just sleep aboard. Possibly none of us loves the close quarters of boat living more than Roxy the wonder dog. Swimming, her mistress close by, food, a warm sleeping pad, and living organisms being hauled aboard are some of her favorite things. Come to think of it, I share most of those likes too.