People often ask me, “If you had plenty of money, what kind of boat would you have?” The answer, however, isn’t an easy one.
I grew up fishing on drift boats in South Florida, and in 1971, a North American S-19 or S-22 was my dream boat. I even bought one and fixed her up. I wanted to troll offshore for billfish, wahoo and mahi; I had caught enough kingfish and bonito. When I graduated to the charter docks, I worked on an Avenger, a Cubavich, a Norseman and similar older boats, but I sure never thought about actually owning one.
I had seen some beautiful Merritts and Ryboviches, and even few Bertrams and Hatterases, but I hadn’t yet fished on one of those fancy boats—although I do remember when Eddie Herbert and I “borrowed” a 46-foot Bertram from Texas to use as a charter boat in Fort Lauderdale. I ran it across the Gulf of Mexico to Florida, and at the time, I thought that boat was a tank—it would go through everything. Many years later, I took those words back when I ran one to St. Thomas, but that’s a different story.
By the time I took the job as captain of The Hooker, all I wanted to do was fish. At that time, she was a 53-foot Hatteras, and then we moved up to a 60-foot Hatteras to allow us to spend more time fishing off the Hannibal Bank in Panama. Then we built the 48-foot G&S, and the rest is history.
I have had the pleasure of being an angler or guest on many custom and production boats, and they are all impressive fishing platforms. I think we all have been beaten in tournaments or day fishing at one time or another by old, slow boats, and some of those old classics also have incredible résumés of fishing results. Is it the boat or the crew that makes one boat catch more fish than the others? One captain I know is always near the top in every tournament his team fishes with their custom boat. One time, he and the owner, along with the crew, flew down to Costa Rica for a tournament. They jumped on a bare-bones charter boat and damn near won it without even fishing a practice day.
Thinking back to many years ago, I remember a guy who came into Merritt’s a couple of times a year to talk to Roy about building a boat, and then he went and built a Rybovich. He told me later that he had made that decision because when he was a kid, a Rybovich was his dream boat, but that he loved all the beautiful custom boats. I’m sure he would have an even tougher decision today.
The best advice I ever heard was that “when you are buying a boat, someday you will also have to sell it,” and as we fall in love with these boats, we still think they are worth more than we paid for them. When you go to sell the boat and the broker tells you the market price, it hurts, but then the first offer you get might be even lower.
In today’s market, it seems like everyone wants speed, an air-conditioned mezzanine, Seakeeper and a $100,000 sonar, but my suggestion is that if your dream boat isn’t available right now, go charter fishing, put your patience hat on, and wait for the right one to pop up. As fishermen, we know that from time to time we need all the patience we can muster.
This article originally appeared in the December 2021 print issue of Marlin.