“Sir,” I said, “I’m so glad you told us dumb teenagers because I was actually thinking of leaving it here. Now I know better.” We then got out of there quick. Even though my paint job had fooled this guy; I didn’t want to press my luck.
This story became the basis for a column I wrote for the Waterfront Times, South Florida’s Nautical Newspaper. A reader, with no sense of humor, wrote to the editor saying my “fond memories lacked character and were not amusing.” She went on to say; “my irresponsible boating behavior sets the wrong example for families who wish to feel safe in Fort Lauderdale.”
If I had only know that my activities, while under the hallucinogenic effects of a can of Schaefer Beer, would impact people fifty years later I might have acted differently.
The following summer I bought another boat and I sold the Thompson with the original Evinrude to Garry Gunderson. Richy and I had been driving down Rte 35 when we spotted a small runabout behind a marine store that was for sale. It was twelve-feet long and made of plywood. It looked like a kit someone had put together in the backyard, but we could both see it had potential. “How much” I asked the store proprietor, after we went inside. “Twenty-five dollars cash money,” he replied. I could immediately see this was a no-brainer. And so, after handing over the money, we went back outside, picked up the boat and tied it on top of the car and headed home.
Once I got it home I fiberglassed the hull and painted the boat white. The number 69 was painted on each side. I thought it was cool; because upside down it looked the same. We put the Merc, which we had modified over the winter, on the boat. For its day this turned out to be a very fast boat. And everyone who saw it thought it was the fastest 30 hp engine around, but that remains our secret.
We had also changed the exhaust so it exhausted on top rather than under the water. “Relieved the back pressure” was what my mechanic told me. In any case it was loud and so I named the boat “Screaming Four.”
However, a naval architect I wasn’t. When I’d glassed the boat I failed to reattach the keel. You can probably guess how a boat turns with no keel. I had to make an adaptation and I installed some metal fins, which in the end worked well enough as a keel.