Happy Boating Birthday, Dad
Earlier this month, my friend Heather, who I’ve known since we were 8, called me out blue to ask a favor. Her dad, Richard, was turning 70 and she wanted to take the family out on a boat ride for his birthday. But Heather hadn’t driven a boat since we were part of a gang of teenage water brats, and she knew she needed a refresher on boat handling. I was happy to oblige, and to take Heather and her 5-year-old son, Carter, fishing while we were at it.
Of course, our schedules are busy. We could only find one day to get out before B-Day and it was blowing 20-25 knots out of the north. Windy days make boat handling far more challenging. Fortunately, there is a lot of protected water around the Stuart area. These are the waters I know as “home.” They met me at Pelican Park, a boat ramp on a creek that leads into the St. Lucie River. My boat is a 2300 Bay Ranger, a beamy bay boat powered by a 250 hp Evinrude E-Tech. It handles really well for its size and eats chop like it is its job, which, actually, it is. But she’s a lot of boat for someone who hasn’t driven one in a while. It was trial by fire for Heather.
I showed her the ignition, the throttle and the steering wheel, and sat down on the center console seat next to her. We bounced off a seawall and a couple of pilings but she quickly remembered always to look back at the engine’s angle before applying the juice, stopped over-steering, and learned not to be afraid to use the boat’s power to get out of a tight situation. She idled us out of the creek and into the open river, and listened when I explained that it’s best to put the hammer down when you’re getting up on a plane, then back off to a fuel-efficient speed.
We had a blast running up the North Fork of the St. Lucie. We caught some fish, and Carter caught his first fish -- a jack crevalle. We saw all kinds of wildlife, and it was fun teaching Carter the names of all the birds. Most importantly, Heather felt pretty confident afterwards about handling a boat by herself.
The next weekend, Heather and family rented a boat from the Jupiter Inlet Boat Rentals and Boat Club. I hear they all had a blast, including Richard, who I hear had a little too much fun☺. Hats off to Heather for a great birthday idea.
Keep in mind that most clubs including the Jupiter Inlet Boat Rentals and Boat Club offer boating lessons if you don’t have a friend with a boat to call. Clubs like that one exist all over the state. They offer great deals, put you in the type of boat best suited for your recreational needs, and are super affordable.