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Boating: Remembering the old days

July 11, 2012
by boatguy Ed , Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

The old versus the new is always a heated subject. Was boating better back 26 years ago or is it better today? Are we spoiled by technology or endangered by the leap in electronic navigation? Are boats built better today?

In ancient China, the emperor wanted one absolute truth to be enshrined on his burial place. So he sent out a decree that every wise person in the land should put aside their work and come up with one indisputable truth. I wonder if we consumers could demand one boat builder build the absolute best boat? Does that concept even exist? Forgive my reaching for an idea!

When I came to Southwest Florida 20 years ago, the old timers were talking about the good old days. They remembered when fish jumped in their boats and everyone knew on which side of the channel to stay. Since I only have 26 years in which to remember I am at a disadvantage but, in my advanced stage of senility, what I can remember was better.

Better if only in the fact that there were less people around. Not to say that I don't like people, I do but there is a point of oversaturation that can and will be reached soon. How smug we used to feel when we visited Dade or Broward counties. We were proud of our sleepy little west coast Florida hometowns. Now we are the victims of Florida east coast overpopulation.

Things were better in the boating game because there were more marinas and fewer boats. Boating on the weekend was still possible. Less knowledgeable boaters were ridiculed into safe boating classes by fellow boaters. Today, newcomers buy a boat and join a boating club where they sign up for cruises and learn from mistakes corrected by cruise leaders. Anyone who agrees to lead a cruise anywhere will quickly regret their efforts.

When did the pride of knowledge go out of fashion? A complete stranger proudly admitted over a beer at Matanzas Restaurant that he had never had, nor never would take a safe boating class. He had recognized my ugly mug and felt compelled to show me the depths of his idiocy. And so, after a mild rebuke from me, I watched him leave the restaurant in his boat. It was painfully evident that he'd told me the truth. He's one of the reasons things were better back then.

I suppose that there isn't any one perfect design of boat just like cars. We all have our own preference. I believed once that Boston Whaler was the perfect boat until I came across the Grady White. Then I realized that the deeper V and the lack of foam filling in the hull allowed for a better offshore ride and room to turn around in the cuddy cabin. Since that day I have seen a hundred knock-offs of the Grady White but only a few of the Boston Whaler.

The old days had more mullet; can anyone explain that to me? Several years ago we Floridians banned the gill net and the only species to benefit were the jacks! They thrive on finger mullet and are everywhere. Before the net ban we used to cast net for mullet in narrow cuts deep in the mangroves. It wasn't unusual to fill half a small boat in an afternoon. The smoke houses would trade two fish for one smoked fish. If you haven't eaten smoked mullet and drank cold beer on a hot day then you must be a recent transplant from Ohio.

The ancient emperor search was rewarded by a simple student who gave him the answer to his desire for one absolute truth, "..and this too shall change."

We Floridians know that life was better without four Hurricanes striking our state in one year, but there the destructive force didn't affect the Real Estate market much. In fact, they may have helped rich people buy up poor people's land at even a greater fevered pace. I wasn't sure how long that phenomenon would last because of the threat of hurricanes on the price of insurance. I mistakenly thought expensive insurance would cool the real estate market.

Then everyone became rich with cheap, no money down loans, with no income verification and falsified earnings. I knew it had to end because it ended many times in the past. (Read the book, "Swamp"). Florida has had more booms and busts than Denver, Colorado, which has had many. I didn't know the light at the end of the tunnel was a train coming our way named derivatives and never heard of a credit default swap? We will survive and this too will pass.

To answer my initial question in my definitive manner, things were absolutely better in the old days in some ways but they were worse too! The standard of living was not nearly as good and boats were less reliable and a lot of really nice people weren't here yet. It's part of human nature to forget the bad and remember the good. And that has been the point of this column. I think

Boatguy Ed is a marine manufacturer, avid boater, television producer and past Commodore of the 'Dead End Canal Yacht Club.' Please contact him directly through or the Dead End Canal yacht Club Facebook page or



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