MY BOAT MY LIFE

Anglers Journal - - CONTENTS - By Ric Burn­ley

My 20-foot Jones Brothers Cape Fish­er­man isn’t just part of the ad­ven­ture — she is the ad­ven­ture. By RIC BURN­LEY

Iwas 2 miles off the beach in a 15-foot kayak when I spot­ted three wa­ter­spouts howl­ing to­ward me. Wind whipped the rain side­ways and flipped my kayak twice. I lost my pad­dle. When I fi­nally reached the beach and caught my breath, I de­cided to buy a boat. As I was grow­ing up, my dad had a se­ries of boats, in­clud­ing a 20-foot Ber­tram and a 24 Albe­marle. Early on, I learned the value of solid con­struc­tion and a soft ride. Fish­ing out of Vir­ginia Beach, I needed a boat that could go from back­wa­ter to off­shore in any weather. I set­tled on a short list of builders based in east­ern North Carolina, where snotty seas and tal­ented crafts­men come to­gether to build tough, hand­some boats.

At the top of the list: a 20-foot Jones Brothers Cape Fish­er­man with a Yamaha F150 4-stroke. Beau­ti­ful: check. Tough: check. Eco­nom­i­cal: check. Top-qual­ity: check. When I went to the fac­tory in More­head City to pick up my new boat, Don­nie Jones sat me down in his of­fice to walk me through the ups and downs of boat own­er­ship. “It’s all part of the ad­ven­ture,” he told me.

My boat and I have had some ad­ven­tures. I named her after my daugh­ter, Daria Marie, who is also smart and beau­ti­ful. From big fish to big seas, the lit­tle blue boat has car­ried me through 10 years of hard-core fish­ing. We’ve landed 200-pound thresher sharks, caught an elu­sive Vir­ginia tar­pon, pi­o­neered fish­ing for big red drum, co­bia, dol­phin and striped bass, and filled the fish­box. She has nav­i­gated day and night through the worst weather. There was the time we ran 50 miles into a 20-knot head sea. Many days we con­tin­ued off­shore when big­ger boats turned around at the sea buoy. We’ve sur­vived thun­der­storms and snow­storms. She’s not the fastest boat, but when the waves are 4 to 5 feet at six sec­onds, my Jones churns through the wash­ing ma­chine with a dry, easy ride.

Daria Marie has sur­vived 2,500 hours of use and abuse. She is the only boat I have owned and, hope­fully, the only boat I will ever own. Through it all, any time I have an is­sue, Don­nie Jones is al­ways quick with an­swers and ad­vice.

But he had one thing wrong. My boat isn’t part of the ad­ven­ture — she is the ad­ven­ture.

Ric Burn­ley is a free­lance writer, ed­i­tor, speaker and pho­tog­ra­pher who lives in Vir­ginia Beach, Vir­ginia. His wife ac­cuses him of buy­ing their house just be­cause it has a per­fect space for his boat.

The au­thor, in white bibs, with a nice red drum.

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