Red Sky at Night with JB Cornwell | Boston Whalers I Have Known: SUNSHINE II
April, 1983. I am in my CPA’s office in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. He is lecturing me that I pay too much in income tax and should get some sort of tax shelter.
After long discussion he recommends that I start a part time commercial fishing business and buy a proper offshore boat so that I can write off ˝ of the cost and depreciation. I thought Sunshine (my 1966 Boston Whaler Sakonnet 16) was a proper offshore boat. I had taken her to Bimini and fished the Gulf Stream when the seas were modest. However, she offered none of the tax benefits that a bigger boat (and a big bank payment) would offer.
I already had a commercial fishing license, and was in the habit of swapping surplus fish for shrimp and lobster at the local commercial fish market. The only things I really needed to change were my accounting for those as income and deducting half of the cost of a new boat and operating expenses from my taxes.
A neighbor had been after me to sell him Sunshine. We made the deal for a little more than twice what I had paid for her 16 years earlier. I had repowered her and put her on a new trailer in 1978.
There was no question about what boat to get. I wanted another trailerable Boston Whaler in the 18-24’ range. After a lot of shopping I found a new Outrage 18 with a 150 Johnson outboard, full canvas and a few options. She became Sunshine II.
Sunshine II was a wonderful boat for fishing the Gulf Stream. She was comfortable, fast and roomy for up to four people (who could handle the ups and downs of being at sea) and she was the unsinkable legend, a Boston Whaler.
One memorable trip was when Daughter #3 and a couple of her girlfriends came to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break from college.
We loaded up and launched from Sunshine II’s slip at my home on the Dania Cutoff Canal and started the 2 mile trip to the Intra Coastal Waterway. That voyage was always a pleasant, no wake, ride with lots of great sight seeing.
Upon reaching the ICW we turned north for a mile to Port Everglades, then east into the Atlantic. The sea was pretty calm, so I jumped Sunshine II up on plane and headed for the Gulf Stream.
We were only a mile or so offshore when I spotted birds. When we investigated we found a school of blackfin tuna busting a bait ball. I quickly deployed a couple of skirted lures and swung by the school. As the starboard lure passed the bait ball it disappeared in a cloud of spray and the drag on the Penn 20lb class reel started shrieking.
Over the next hour or so we fought many and boated a few blackfins from about 5lb to about 20lb. On the light tackle even a 5lb tuna behaves like a locomotive; the sort of long, powerful runs that one almost never experiences in fresh water. We were pretty sore by early afternoon.
We had a pleasant cruise back to Ft. Lauderdale and spent a couple of hours at my favorite waterfront café, the Southport Raw Bar, enjoying steamed shrimp and cold draft beer. SRB had rustic picnic tables and sawdust on the floor. The atmosphere was pure Hemingway and the fishing boats at the docks finished the picture. It was a wonderful close to a wonderful day.
Blackfin tuna are my favorite fish for sashimi, and for my Asian neighbors, as well. We had plenty of fish to share, even after stopping at the commercial fish market and trading a couple of the larger ones for more shrimp and a few lobster tails.
That day is one of the most treasured memories of my years in Ft. Lauderdale.
I didn’t have Sunshine II very long. My employer got into financial trouble. I got laid off and couldn’t find enough income to meet the payments, so she went back to the bank. It would be several years and a move back to Texas before I got my next Whaler, Heidi Yawl. Meet her next month.
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(JB Cornwell writes from “The Hideout” in Whitt, TX, and is also an expert moderator, instructor, and fountain-of-knowledge in the iboats.com Boating Forums, where he may occasionally share a yarn of his own.)