When you cruise north from Florida on the ICW, traverse Chesapeake Bay, pass the Jersey coast en route to the Hudson River, follow the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes, then hit Lake Michigan, the Mississippi River, the Ohio River, the Tennessee/Tombigbee Waterway to Mobile Bay and cross the Gulf of Mexico, “you learn about a boat,” says John Gray.
Part of the boat-buying process is rationalizing the financial commitment. Here’s what Bill Ramsden came up with when he was ready to buy his first boat back in 1985. “I wanted to be out on the water and told my wife that the crabs we catch — we lived along the Jersey Shore at the time — would more than pay for the boat,” he says. “Possibly an exaggeration.” (“You think?” quips Mia, his wife of 43 years.)
Ron Heisler grew up as a freshwater boater in South Carolina. Bass fishing was the thing, and he fished competitively for a time. “I bought a bass boat in 1995 and fished competitively for 10 or 12 years, and for fun after that,” says Heisler, a Rock Hill, South Carolina, small business owner.
Bob Saunders’ boat is what you might call a “real museum piece.” In the early 2000s, The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, in keeping with its focus on the history and culture of Chesapeake Bay, took part in a boatbuilding program. Well-known artisans were brought in to build a deadrise design that became known as the Mariner. A dozen of them were produced.
Boats. Bill Williamson has owned them — sail and power — in a boating life that’s taken him from Wisconsin’s lakes to the waters of Florida’s east coast. “I started as a kid in a flat-bottomed, home-built boat my dad bought,” says Williamson, 73, of Vero Beach, Florida. “My granddad got me a 2-1/2-hp Johnson outboard, and I went all over the place in that. Didn’t care what the weather was. That was on Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. Later I had a Lyman runabout.”
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