Red Sky at Night with JB Cornwell | The Worst Road Trip Ever
I found this boat on ebay: a 1981 Boston Whaler Outrage 18 with 130HP Yamaha. The seller was an outfit called brokeboats, or something like that. It was an insurance loss.
The boat had spent some time hanging from one cable on a davit with the fore part of the hull submerged. The outboard had been cut loose from the transom and dropped in the (salt) water. It had been retrieved and was in the boat. All this was the result of a botched attempt to steal the outboard. There were lots of barnacles on the hull and on the cowl of the Yammy. No trailer. Located at Dania, FL, just down the street from where I used to live.
I decided that the Outrage would make a great project, so I bid. I won the boat for $3400, a great price in my mind. A few months partially submerged was very unlikely to harm a Boston Whaler. If the outboard could be made to run or used for parts it was just a bonus.
Another hour or so on the net found me a trailer in Ft. Lauderdale that seemed suitable, so all I needed to do was drive the 2K miles to Ft. Lauderdale, pick up the trailer and then down to Dania to get it rigged for the Outrage. Seemed like a pleasant road trip in my ’98 Mercedes ML 320. She could tow up to 5Klb. and was a great road car. I planned on 5 days; 2 to get there, one to do business and 2 more to cruise home to The Hideout.
As I prepped for the trip some mysterious premonition caused me to put my stage 2 toolbox in the truck. That is the one for doing major boat and/or trailer repairs, by the road if needed.
I set off on a bright morning bound for Hattiesburg, MS, where I planned to spend the first night. I hadn’t even cleared Dallas when Murphy’s Law got me; about a half mile in front of me on I-20 vehicles suddenly started going every direction and bashing into one another. I suppose I should have been grateful that the minions of the law got it cleared up enough to let traffic resume in only about 2 hours. Sadly, there was a fatality in the crash and every driver within several miles was interviewed as to what (s)he saw. That took another hour. I pulled into the Motel in Hattiesburg about 02:00 with a headache.
Day 2 was uneventful and got me to Ocala, FL where I spent the night rather than push into the wee hours again.
I arrived in Ft. Lauderdale in the late afternoon of day 3 and went immediately to the location of the trailer I wanted to buy. It was a galvanized EZ Loader, had plenty of tread on the tires and rollers that rotated easily. I had had an EZ Loader before so I was confident that it would do the job. I bought it, hooked it up (lights bad) and drove down to Dania where the boat was. I took care of the paperwork, asked the marina to rig the trailer for the boat and retired to a beachfront Hotel for the night.
The morning of day 4 found me arriving at the marina where I had bought the boat. It was not rigged on the trailer and still had no lights.
The rigger told me that he recommended not using that trailer. He said it had a lot of rust. He offered me a brand new trailer for $700, exchange, rigged. Thinking only of cosmetics I asked him to go ahead and rig the used one. I went into the Marina store and bought a lights kit.
After the crew had finished the rigging I spent about an hour installing and testing the new lights, then set off for home about sundown. I thought I could make Ocala by midnight.
Then my troubles really started.
I had gone about 100 miles and was on the FL Turnpike when a motorist flashed lights at me and pointed to my trailer. I was very near one of those Howard Johnson’s fuel stops so I pulled in and walked around the trailer.
The right tire had shed most of its tread and the right spring was . . . well. . . gone. The frame rested on the axle. The left spring had shed a couple of leaves.
I unhooked in the parking lot and sped to the nearest town, where I found a marine store just about to close. I returned with 2 new springs and 2 new wheels with tires and several bucks poorer.
The wrench in the shop at the HoJo said he wouldn’t work on my trailer. So I dug out my stage 2 tools, jacked up the trailer and went to work. By about 01:00 I was back on the road. I spent the rest of the night in Ocala.
Day 7 found me westbound on I-10 just west of Mobile in the early afternoon. A roaring sound from the trailer finally broke through the considerable traffic noise. The left wheel was near to falling off. Rust had been falling off the hub, loosening the wheel, which then wore the stud holes out to about 3 sizes bigger than the studs. A lucky break: I had kept one of the rusty wheels with tire tread intact. I put it on the bad hub and limped in to Biloxi. I located a closed Marine store, ate a large piece of dead steer and fell unconscious into a nice big bed at a motel.
About 04:00 the fire alarm went off in the motel. I leapt up and opened the door. Smoke! I took the time to dress and pack my bag before joining the other guests in the parking lot. It was raining. First responders roared up in a magnificent big firetruck, rushed into the motel and extinguished the fire, which was in one dryer in the laundry. I went back to bed after a shower.
The morning of day 8 was an improvement. I arrived at the Marine store along with the boss, who fixed me up with 2 new hubs and a new wheel to replace the ruined one.
I left Biloxi having spent on new parts and repairs just over the $700 that would have bought me a new trailer in Dania. Never mind that this was late on day 8 of a planned 5 day trip. I made it to Hattiesburg that night.
With no further catastrophes I rolled into The Hideout the evening of Day 9, a great deal wiser about boat trailers than I had been.
(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.)