Posted by: nauticalchronicles | October 25, 2012



Changing Course

Louise and I are thinking about changing things up some. She is younger, and retired. I am older, collecting my retirement benefits…but still “between jobs”. We’ve been discussing our options.

When we purchased our 46’ Post, it was to be our “retirement condo”. We would practice living on the boat to prepare for our retirement years. This we have been doing for the past six years (more so me than Louise since she runs out of things to do on the boat; I don’t). Initially, we had discussed taking the boat south for the winters, docking in a quaint marina (Lighthouse Point, FL), moving when we get tired of the location or our neighbors, occasionally flying north to visit our children and grandchildren, occasionally having them visit us.

As evidenced by our “Nautical Chronicles”, we have experienced a broad spectrum of adventures beginning with our first boat purchase over 16 years ago; in fact, our 16th wedding anniversary was just this year (I actually asked her to marry me 28 years ago; she said “let me think about it”…12 years to think about it?). We’ve had more on-water, power-boating fun than should be allowed, and our adventures continue…but to a lesser degree.

My mate and I rarely “have words”, however just the other night, I brought up the sore subject of “taking our condo south”, again (although I’m pretty sure this is an expired subject). “We bought this boat seven years ago as our retirement home to be in Florida during the winters; this was the year we were to go south, remember? Now with our grandchildren (five in the past three years) I guess you won’t be considering this anymore?”

Her response was immediate and direct: “You are such a dreamer!! You’ve always been a dreamer but let’s face facts…WE CAN’T AFFORD TO TAKE THE BOAT TO FLORIDA! This has nothing to do with our family and our grandchildren; do the MATH”.

My First Mate is, of course, correct.

Here is some historical data explaining WHY she is correct:

  • We owned our 34’ Sea Ray from 2002-2007. That “HalfMine” held 126 gallons of gas; gas was $1.70 per gallon; in ’07 gas prices had risen to just under $3.00 per gallon. With our Sea Ray, we traveled EVERYWHERE, affordably, and we loved our travels.
  • Our current powerboat is still “HalfMine”; she is a 46’ Post Sport-fish  she carries 650 gallons of diesel fuel; in 2007, fuel prices had risen to just over $3.11 per gallon; when we fueled up for winter storage last week, we paid $4.29 per gallon.

In comparing our current situation to our previous situation, even I can understand what has happened to our plan:

  • In 2002, our Sea Ray could have made the trip to Lighthouse Point, 1,600 nautical miles give-or-take, at a comfortable 21 knots, burning 32 gallons per hour (16 per motor), taking approximately 76 hours (not including stops for fuel, overnights, etc.), at $1.70 per gallon, costing in the neighborhood of $4,135. The down-side of taking our Sea Ray to Florida would have been the need to stop every 3.5 hours to re-fuel (22 fuel stops).
  • In comparison, our Post could now make the same 1,600 mile trip, also at a comfortable 21 knot cruise, burning 42 gallons per hour (21 per motor), taking the same 76 hours, at $4.29 per gallon, costing in excess of $13,728. We did, however purchase the best “portable condo” for our dream-trip…we would need to stop for fuel only every 15 hours of travel (5 fuel stops)!

This, of course, is only the one-way trip; $27,456 will get us there and back for next summer (not including slip rentals and travel while there; we’d save the winter storage but would need to clean the bottom paint more often).

It’s pretty obvious, even to this dreamer, that the cost of fuel is what is hampering our travel plans. In fact, fuel prices have seriously affected all of our recent (2007-2012) long-distance travel activity.

Alas, we have been considering, just considering mind you, course changes. I will, however, continue to dream; of the ICW trip; the Great Loop; maybe a trawler with a single Yanmar diesel.

One of our first thoughts was to get “out of boating” altogether, buy a motor home and see the country. Of course, doing that would still subject us to fuel prices PLUS Louise would have to drive; I hate driving and CAN’T STAND heights which would sorely limit our travel in MOUNTAINOUS AREAS. More likely, the RV would stay parked in our son’s yard in Norwell so we could live in it during the winter months (the in-law addition to his home is also now out of the picture). I believe we’ve eliminated the RV thought for now.

We currently spend much of our summer on our mooring in the Ipswich River in Massachusetts. What about buying a HOUSE BOAT and putting it on our mooring? We’ll  sell the Post, buy a smaller boat, a cheaper-to-run boat, tie up to our house boat and invite all our friends to tie up as well (we all end up at “the moorings” anyway). We have not totally eliminated this thought…yet.

What about a sail boat? The last time I sailed a boat was at a Boy Scout camp in 1973; I vividly remember the head swimming counselor hollering at me at the top of his lungs, “get that boat out of the swimming area NOW!!” I am reluctant to pursue this thought further; that memory is still vivid in my mind.

Now that our 2012 summer power-boating season here in New England is formally concluded and “HalfMine” is securely put away for the winter, we have decided what we are going to do…nothing. We are OK with the status quo. We love our Post; we love living on it in the summer in Salisbury, Massachusetts; we love taking it and our dinghy to our mooring in the Ipswich River; we love our now-shorter excursions to ports more local to us; we have vacation plans for this winter which include a Tulips & Windmills River Boat Cruise in Amsterdam and, of course, a trip to Florida, by aircraft. We love our family, our kids and grand-kids and plan on continuing to spend time with them as they grow up.

We did, however, add one more element to our boating interests (in the interest of saving fuel)…mid-summer, we bought another powerboat. Since we weren’t travelling as much as we used to, we thought a nice little center-console boat would add to our travel enjoyment in and around Newburyport, Ipswich, and Essex. Since we didn’t want to spend too much, we spoke with our really good friends, Jenn & Steve, who reluctantly agreed to go into partnership with us on the purchase of a 1995, 16’ Sunbird Neptune center-console boat, powered by a brand new highly acclaimed and much sought-after Evinrude E-Tech 90 HP motor (it actually winterizes itself!).


little vessel 6 little vessel 3

Our center console was a welcome addition to our in-water and on-water boating experience and it SIPPED fuel. The motor was newly purchased at the boat show by the previous owner, and came with the “I-Command” gauge package. This package includes a fuel monitoring system which accurately monitors gallons per hour, fuel consumption, speed…everything.

Our final voyage in “The Little Vessel” as it has come to be known was on a rather cool, late afternoon, early evening mid-week mid-October day. Louise and I decided to go out for one last trip; we called our friend Paul to see if he’d like to go since he had not been aboard our new toy. Of course my mate asked me if I had checked the fuel and I answered that yes, of course I had; our fuel gauge read more than one-quarter full. We picked Paul up at his dock across the Merrimack and proceeded up the back-river channel allowing us to go full-throttle, to show him how well the little boat handled. As it began to get dark and as some late-season, Triple-E-bearing mosquitoes were appearing we headed back down-river, against the incoming tide at no-wake speed. We were in deep discussion about important “things” when we heard the motor sputter, then stall and quit. WE HAD RUN OUT OF FUEL. The new “I-Command” gauges had not been properly set when the tank had been filled, thus the reading had been inaccurate (we only found this out later…who knew?!). We started to get our anchor out, but found we were conveniently drifting up-river with the tide toward a 54’ sailboat moored in the middle of the river. We were able to secure ourselves to the stern cleat of the unoccupied boat, at which point the Captain of “The Little Vessel” (me) received serious reprimands from both passengers, unjustly so in the eyes of the Captain (again me).

As we sat there, in the middle of the river, we discussed our options. It was almost dark; there were no other boats out; there was no activity of any kind in the near vicinity; there was no answer on channel 16; there was no answer on any channel of the VHF radio; Brian our marina owner had left for the day. Then The Captain (me) remembered I had downloaded the Boat U.S. app on my new “smart phone” (Louise made us get I-Phones earlier in the summer; I hated giving up my antiquated Nextel with the walkie-talkie option). I touched the app, and then touched the “call now for a tow” button and, low and behold, someone in Alabama or Tennessee answered immediately. He checked his records (I didn’t even need my card number; he had it all from just the call) and located us per our GPS tracking on the phone, in the Merrimack River! Twenty minutes later Tow Boat arrived to our rescue. I had asked Mike, the tow-boat captain, to bring some gas since it appeared we had run out. He gave us his five-gallon plastic can which we transferred to our tank. After priming the motor, our Evinrude again came to life allowing us to return to the dock. I asked the tow-boat captain if he needed my card (which was back on the big boat) but he indicated that the tow was taken care of by my membership just from the call. The only thing not covered by Boat U.S. was…the cost of the fuel. We needed to give him $25 for the gas; Paul thought we should tip him an additional $5 for the trip out; our total cost was $30 for 5 gallons…$6 per gallon; the most we have paid for fuel… ever; but this time it was well worth the price. Since I didn’t have any money with me (the bucks were also back on the big boat) Paul had to pay.

So, regarding power-boating and fuel prices, it has been a tough few years; but I will continue to dream…about those prices going down; and Louise will continue to say, “what; are you out of your mind?”

Captain Robert Brown

First Mate Louise

the little man



  1. What an unexpected surprise to find a new Nautical Chronicles in my inbox today! It is, of course, a GREAT read, Captain! Any day that starts with such a nice surprise is gonna be a good one!!!

  2. Yes indeed,,an unexpected surprise as Martha says is always a great way to start the day. It is such a great welcome to read something so opposed to all the political bashing currently going on. Keep em comin’ Captain!!!!! And thanks for sharing this with me!!

  3. Soooo happy to see you’re back to writing!!! Don’t stop dreaming, Bob! Only 6 months until the boat goes back into the water. Enjoy your winter vacations. I want a full report on the river cruise.

  4. Oh, Captain, My Captain! So glad to hear your voice again. Hope you can plan a trip Out West soon. We will stay in the flats.

  5. Life wouldn’t be the same without a little dreaming!
    Thanks Captain!

  6. Dream’s are what keep us going! As always, love your writing…
    PS: I like the houseboat dream 🙂

  7. So excited to see you are still writing; love the dreams!! When are you going to have a book signing??

  8. Love, love, love your stories. They always put a smile on my face. See you very soon 🙂

  9. LOVE THE NEW STORY!!!” such a nice surprise to find a new adventure in my inbox!! I am so glad THIS martha would not be hoodwinked by a young lad with a brogue!!! Yeah, right!!! Well done, captn bob!

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