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The Frankie

Mike Robinson: Adrift and close to abandoning our boat the FrankieBack in 2012, we had a dreamboat, an 18-foot Hourston Glascraft. It was brand-new, had a magnificent 150-horsepower Yamaha four-stroke outboard, and quickly became the envy of the Skelhp government wharf.

We paid monthly wharfage dues all summer and used it to fish and cruise. We christened her the Francine, after my then 90-year-old Mom. Mom even performed, with great enthusiasm, a champagne dedication ceremony during the boat’s first sea trials.

This boat consistently delivered and rapidly converted the entire family into marine enthusiasts.

Then one early August morning, my wife and I went down to the wharf and Francine was gone. Stolen the previous night under cover of darkness.

It’s hard to describe how that makes a skipper feel. It led to quick phone calls to the wharfinger, filing a case report with the local RCMP detachment and immediate consultation with our insurance agent.

After doing everything that’s prescribed in such situations, we waited. For three months.

Nothing happened on the police front. No boat was found.

We did get a cheque from our insurance company. Before we even cashed it, we contracted a well-known boat disease, two-foot-itis. Quite a severe case in fact. We got six-foot-itis. There was only one known cure – we needed a bigger boat. We needed a 24-foot cabin cruiser to replace the 18-foot Francine.

A few phone calls were placed to our boating pals and we were advised to head to a boat seller in Bellingham, Wash. Admiral Bob’s Boat World (names have been changed to protect the innocent) had a website that advised Canadians about the great deals in America, where boats could be had from all 50 states. Many were advertised as “fresh-water boats,” and all were sold with a trailer so you could buy and haul the same day.

Customs duties and procedures were said to be “easy.” It all seemed so inviting.

We went. We bought. We queued in a customs lineup for several hours. We paid Canadian duties.

And we trailered a six-year-old “gently used” 24-foot Trophy with an inboard motor home to Skelhp.

Immediately we learned a lot more about our new boat than we had been told by Admiral Bob. Our first launch quickly resulted in engine failure and the unplanned testing of the anchor in front of the ferry Island Sky’s (luckily vacant) mooring bay.

Fortunately we had a savvy neighbour aboard who managed to get the motor to crank over in time to narrowly escape an embarrassing episode in front of the arriving ferry.

The next day we hauled our new purchase to Valley Marine and our magic boat mechanic Jeff. He gave the boat a complete physical, and made some immediate repairs to get us fishing and cruising.

The new boat was subsequently christened the Frankie, Mom once again performed her duties and posed for the requisite photos, and the Frankie began her cruising and fishing career in salt water.

This new saline medium was quite different than that enjoyed by Admiral Bob’s fresh-water lake boats. Corrosion began. Piston rods snapped. More mechanical havoc ensued. Jeff gave the Frankie his best efforts, but the writing was ‘on the water’ – we would have to buy a new motor, probably sooner than later.

We also learned that the Frankie, on occasion, had a particular odour. One that could be temporarily remedied but never fully removed. She also appeared stern heavy.

One summer day at Lund, we learned why. With no obvious room to tie-up, I noticed that the sewage pump-out wharf had a space right by the pump. We tied up there and as a lark purchased a pump out.

We had never used the head but I knew that getting my son to perform these duties in front of loved ones and curious fellow boaters would be a good set-up for a picture and a laugh.

After five minutes of frenetic pumping, great hilarity and much nautical blasphemy, we realized that our boat – and Admiral Bob – were full of it!

Last winter, we bought Frankie a new MerCruiser engine.

Our confidence increases with every trip – and I’m happy to report it smells wonderful.

This past July, we enjoyed incident-free cruises into Desolation Sound and Jervis inlet.

Boating has finally become a predictable pleasure again.

Troy Media columnist Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum and the Bill Reid Gallery.

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Adrift and close to abandoning our boat the Frankie

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