My Boat My Life

Anglers Journal - - MY BOAT MY LIFE - By Jay Flem­ing

My first boat was a kayak, my sec­ond boat was a 15-foot Ghee­noe, and my third boat was an 18-foot Pri­va­teer bay boat. All three had two things in com­mon: They were great for the shal­low wa­ters of Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, and they were lim­ited and po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous in the rough con­di­tions that hap­pen fre­quently on my home wa­ters.

All too quickly, I learned how small my Pri­va­teer was when cross­ing Tang­ier Sound from Smith Is­land to Cr­is­field, Mary­land. The sound is no­to­ri­ously rough, es­pe­cially with a strong north­east wind and a flood tide. I was rou­tinely mak­ing the 10-mile trip for fish­ing and pho­tog­ra­phy, and while my bay boat was per­fect for shal­low wa­ter — the brand was the go-to cen­ter con­sole in the 1980s for wa­ter­men work­ing the creeks and rivers along the Ch­e­sa­peake’s East­ern Shore — I knew I needed a big­ger ver­sion to han­dle tougher con­di­tions.

I found my per­fect boat in the least likely place: an art gallery in An­napo­lis, where I was show­ing my work from Smith Is­land. Boat­builder Kevin Mar­shall came to see a large print of my pho­to­graph show­ing his fa­ther crab-pot­ting. I asked if he knew of any­thing in the 22- to 25-foot range. He had a 22-foot Pri­va­teer Roamer built in 1983 in Belhaven,

North Carolina. The boat had been used and abused by a wa­ter­man known for be­ing hard on his gear. I had seen the work that Kevin did on Park­ers, C-hawks and other Pri­va­teers, so the con­di­tion of the hull didn’t de­ter me. The fact that we had a blank can­vas to work with was ex­cit­ing.

I thought long and hard about how the boat was go­ing to be used, what gear I was go­ing to carry, where I was go­ing to take her, and the con­di­tions the Bay could throw at me. Kevin re­placed the stringers and the deck, filled in the tran­som, filled in any im­per­fec­tions in the glass on the hull, and positioned the con­sole to­ward the stern. He welded a bracket to hold the 150-hp Suzuki 4-stroke, and added a hy­draulic jack plate. On the sur­face, it would ap­pear as if we didn’t do much, but that was just what I wanted — a clean look with a sim­ple, ef­fec­tive de­sign. Out­fit­ting this boat with too many gad­gets or hatches would just cre­ate main­te­nance is­sues.

Nearly six months af­ter ini­ti­at­ing the con­ver­sa­tion with Kevin about a boat, I was mak­ing my first run to start break­ing in the out­board. Weather was no longer an is­sue; I was ready for al­most any­thing the Ch­e­sa­peake could of­fer.

The fi­nal step was pick­ing a name for her. I call her the Carla Marie, af­ter one of the most in­flu­en­tial peo­ple in my life: my mother.

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