Little Water Buggy: The Acquisition

First posted on 8/19/12

Before I get to the boat trip with my 82-year-old mother who had never been in a boat besides the Nantucket Ferry, I want to tell you how I got this thing in the first place, and, of course, how I got it ready to go in the water.

I’ve already mentioned my good friend Jimmy Mellen who died last October (see blog 1: The Launch).

Well, about 10 years ago, Jimmy stopped using his boat due to medical reasons. I became the proud owner of his motor, for a deal (exact payment arrangement to be kept secret until the end of time….or until I change my mind).

At that time I had a 16-foot Evinrude tri-hull, circa 1966, known as a “Sweet 16” in the driveway. It had been sitting there for a long time already at that point, acquired the year I was a commercial quahogger (definitely a separate blog post…or two). My friend Dave C had grabbed it for me. We picked it up at a house on West Island. Dave had said not to pay for it, but that didn’t seem right, so I threw $50 on the table before we left. No one was home at the time we took it. It was sitting on the lawn of a back yard at a house on the beach side of Balsam Street. The guy who had it said he had bought it to cut the trailer out from under it. I should’ve listened to Dave and not left any money.

Dave C assured me he could repair the boat. Suffice it to say, that boat never got in the water, it got junked.

And the motor stayed in my shed. And stayed in my shed. And stayed in my shed.

Well, Jimmy got sicker and sicker, then into the nursing home, at which point I was his main contact with the outside world and his liaison/advocate (read: pitbull) with the medical types. I took the money he had saved and put it in a safe deposit box. Whenever he wanted money, I’d take it from the box and give it to him. It was too dangerous to keep it at the nursing home, and he was only allowed to have $2,000 maximum in his name anyway. Jimmy made it clear that the money was to be used to cremate him and he wanted me to have what was left. Honestly, as time went on I didn’t think there would even be enough to cremate him. I envisioned myself at the bar taking up a collection from his friends.

Jimmy died in October of 2011. I learned then, that in Massachusetts, the closest relative has to give written permission for a person to be cremated. That was Jimmy’s son, and they had not spoken to each other in more than 30 years.

Several days went by as Jimmy’s body stayed in the morgue at St. Luke’s. I had a conversation with the social worker who told me Jimmy’s son refused to sign. I asked what would happen if no one could talk him into it. She said that Jimmy would have to be buried. I said who’s going to pay for that, I had $2,600 to cremate him, no money to bury him. She said the $2,600 might be enough. I laughed: that money was to cremate him, not bury him, and I would not give up a penny of it for something that he expressly did NOT want done.

The money was, after all, in cash, in MY safe deposit box. The health care proxy and power of attorney both died with him. So, for all legal purposes, that money was mine to do with as I pleased.

I said, “I’m gonna buy a boat! Do you have any idea how much boat I can buy for $2,600 in these parts?”

The social worker didn’t say anything.

“Jimmy would be so happy to buy me a boat!” I continued.

Ah well, the son eventually signed, sort of. He signed for his aunt to be able to sign and for me to take the ashes and dispose of them as per Jimmy’s wishes (at Hoppy’s Landing off the floating dock, of course).

Anyway, at the memorial we had for him, I was entertaining people with the story of the son not signing, the boat, etc.

“For about an hour on Tuesday, I really thought I was going to get a boat,” I told anyone who would listen.

Hoppy was there, drew himself up, looked down at me and asked, “You want a boat, Beth?”

I said, “Yeah, I had that beat up thing in the yard for 10 years…” like, why else would that have been there?

“I’ll get you a boat,” he said.

Yeah, right, I thought.

Well, I’ll be damned, he did.

A couple of months later he said he found a boat for me. I had about $600 in the boat fund at that point and was planning on getting about $1200 before I started looking for a boat with a trailer.

So I asked him how much. He said he had sold Jimmy’s car and I could either take the money or the boat. I said I didn’t want anything to do with that stupid car, but he insisted that I had taken good care of Jimmy, one of his best friends, etc., and I deserved the money from the car.

So I looked at the boat with my neighbor Frank. We knew immediately that the trailer would not be part of the deal: it was a beauty, and didn’t fit the boat anyway. I was right, it turns out that Hoppy tried to get the trailer without the boat, but the seller insisted that he take both (that happens a lot around here, I guess). So Hoppy got the boat home, took another look at it and thought, “hey, that would make a nice little boat for Beth.”

It was a 15-foot tri-hull that had been mined for parts: the steering wheel was gone, there was a big hole in the deck, and the side boards inside had been ripped out, along with a few other things. Only the telltale signs of old screws removed, hinges, and other things were left behind to pique the imagination on what they held in place in the old boat’s heyday.

But it was a sweet-looking little thing to me, except for the name: “Chickaroo.”

I told Frank, “well, the name’s got to go, that’s for sure.”

And don’t give me any grief about how it’s bad luck to change the name of a boat. No way on God’s green earth was Beth David going to own a boat named “Chickaroo.” Period. After it was in my yard, my Portuguese neighbor told me that “Chickaroo” (pronounced very differently than expected), was a fish that the Portuguese like to catch. I told him I was changing the name anyway.


I told Hoppy I’d take the boat (it had a legitimate title and everything), but he had to fix the deck and he had to give me a useable trailer. He said he would.

The winter wore on and I wondered if it would happen. Anyone who knows Hoppy knows he’s a wheeler and dealer, so if a better deal came along, I knew he might sell the boat. I wasn’t going to put a penny into it until it was registered in my name.

One rainy day, when Hoppy wasn’t lobstering, we went to Fall River and registered the boat in my name. Of course, any trip to Fall River to register a boat and meet up face-to-face with Little Miss Personality (and you all know who I mean) is worthy of a separate post in itself. I’ll write one day on the ordeal of registering the old boat and the new.

Now, we waited for the weather to get warm enough for the fiberglass work. I kept reminding Hoppy: and a trailer, too, I need it to be ready to go in the water, that’s what I was going to buy…etc., etc.

Well, one step at a time, he got it done: put the new deck down, had it fiberglassed.

Then he came to pick up the motor with John Bowman, the engine guy…

When Bowman saw the old motor he said, “we should re-think this, Hoppy.”

It’s only a 25 HP, but it’s an old one (1981) and it’s big and heavy, and I guess he’s not supposed to lift things, per doctor’s orders, because of a heart attack.

“Nah, I’ll take the heavy part, just pick up the bottom,” said Hoppy as he proceeded to pull it out of the shed.

I grabbed the propeller end (don’t want Bowman getting a heart attack on account of MY motor) and we walked it around from the back of the house, along the side out to the truck on the street, and off they went.

Later, Hoppy told me that when Bowman took the cover off, “all kinds of mice” ran out and ran all over the place. Shoot, I thought, poor guy really could’ve had a heart attack because of my old motor.

“I’m surprised they didn’t come out when we were carrying it,” said Hoppy,

“It’s a good thing they didn’t,” I said, remembering how we walked it all around the house out to the street. “We would’ve dropped it and that would’ve been the end of it,” and possibly the end of our toes.

I never did find out what happened to the mice. In any case, it was a blessing in disguise, because the mice had chewed up all the wires, so they had to be replaced. Although that cost more, it made me feel better to know that I have new wiring inside the motor.

Now, I just had to wait for a trailer.

And wait, as summer moved along.

Then, just a few days before I was going away on vacation, Hoppy came driving down the street with my boat bouncing up and down on a trailer that clearly was not fitted to the boat.

Hoppy was done “screwing around” with the boat, he said. It was a decent trailer, but needed some work.

I was a little ticked off because I knew it meant I would have to rely on Frank and Scott to get the trailer to fit the boat. It had some clamps and rollers that needed to be replaced, the tires were too far back and the winch was too far forward. Not that I knew any of that. I just knew it was bouncing up and down as Hoppy drove along with it.

At one point, as I apologized to Frank profusely for dumping the project in his lap, we both laughed, realizing that his lap is exactly where it would’ve landed if Hoppy had “taken care of it,” anyway.

Frank and Scott are the trailer guys on West Island. That’s just the way it is.

So, they fixed the trailer, balanced it out, put the motor on, put the whole thing back in my yard, and said…now you’re all set.


Now what?

Doesn’t it need a battery, and a gas tank and stuff like that? Don’t you have to mix the gas with oil or something? And, um, how does the gas get to the engine? Shouldn’t there be hoses or something? And, er, tell me again about that “tilt” thing? Please?

Next up: Getting it ready to go in the water.

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