Anyone in the market for a boat quickly finds out what grammarians have always known: “bigger” is a relative term.
For us, “bigger” means bigger than the skiff we keep in the pond. Since the skiff is only twelve feet, our “bigger” covers a lot of territory. We’ve been looking in the fifteen-to-seventeen foot range, with me leaning toward fifteen and Kevin leaning toward nineteen.
Fifteen feet is big enough to navigate our two small, enclosed bays, Cotuit Bay on the south side and Barnstable Harbor on the north. In appropriate weather conditions we could venture farther out, to Nantucket Sound on the south or Cape Cod Bay on the north. Fifteen feet is also small enough to be powered by a motor with horsepower in double digits and to be easily trailerable, considerations for, respectively, economy and mobility. Because we want a boat primarily for fishing and lobstering, and not for drug running or party giving, a boat that size seems to me to be about right.
But it’s a slippery slope, and just last week Kevin showed me a listing of a 26-foot boat that he liked the looks of. To me, that seemed like buying a motor home, but Kevin has owned boats before, and has first-hand experience with how much drier and more stable a bigger boat is when the weather is anything but glorious. He thought it was pushing our size limit, but he also saw the possibilities it would open up. It could handle ten lobster traps. It could go to Nantucket. It could weather big waves.
He was interested enough to show it to our friend Dan, who knows absolutely everything about boats. Dan thought it had problems unrelated to its size, but also wondered why someone looking for a fifteen-to-seventeen foot boat would expand the search to include a 26-foot boat. “That’s a lot of boat,” he told me. “If Kevin wants a feel for how much boat 26 feet is, tell him he can come over and paint the first 26 feet of ours.”
When he says “ours,” he’s talking about a 1973 Grand Banks 42, a beautiful wooden ark-like vessel. To Dan and Linda, it’s 42 feet of humming machinery and polished trim that can take them virtually anywhere in the world. To me, it’s an object lesson.
Dan and Linda live down the street from us, and when we first moved to the Cape, the boat was in dry dock on their front lawn. It was an excellent landmark, and long before we met its owners, we used it when giving directions. “When you see the lawn with the ark on it, we’re just around the next bend on the left,” we’d tell people.
After we’d lived here a couple of months, I was out one morning getting the paper at the local convenience store, and I saw a guy about my age dressed in running gear. I was looking for places to run, so I asked him about it. We started talking, and he mentioned that he lived in the house with the boat. “Oh!” I said. “You’re Noah!”
It turns out I was wrong about that. Technically, it’s Linda who’s Noah, since she’s the captain. Dan is chief engineer, first mate, and all-around crew.
Forty-two feet of boat isn’t too much for Dan and Linda, who have mad maritime skills, but I got a first-hand experience of the perils of bigger boats when I helped them get theirs off the lawn and into the water. “Helped” overstates the case a bit. I did a little last-minute touch-up painting, and then drove with Linda behind the huge boat-moving truck with its hydraulic trailer watching Dan, who rode on the boat, moving tree branches out of the way as we made our way down the street to the marina.
The launch went smoothly but, throughout, I found myself thinking that fifteen feet was plenty of boat. A little under, even, would probably get the job done. Hell, maybe we could fold one out of newspaper. Meantime, though, I’m very glad to be friends with Dan and Linda. It’s been raining non-stop here for what seems like months, and I’m perfectly willing to help round up the animals two by two in return for a berth.