When I was a young boy, all I could do was fantasize about boats. Every dime I had went to boating magazines. When I was 10, I saved allowance money and, without my parents knowing it, rented small rowboats with five horsepower engines to go out on the Great South Bay on Fire island. Many of the other parents were buying their kids boats. And, of course, I wanted the same thing. My parents would have none of that.
In fact, I was grounded more than a few times for renting those small boats, and later, for even bringing up the subject of a boat. The boat became such a red flag topic in my house that I was then forbidden to even discuss it. Then…on the eve of my 13th birthday, my father threw down the gauntlet. He told me that if I wanted a boat I’d have to earn every last penny of it myself, and also pass a Coast Guard Captain’s Exam. That summer, I held down six (yes, six) jobs: I worked at the grocery store on Fire Island, I had a paper route, I unloaded the freight boat, I worked as a counselor at the youth group, I babysat, and I met the incoming ferry boats with an oversized wagon and earned anywhere from 50 cents to $5 a pop taking people and their luggage from the ferry boats to their houses. By the end of the summer, I had earned enough money for that boat. And that fall — at the age of 13 — I went to Hunter College at night and passed the Coast Guard exam.
Then, on my 14th birthday, I went out and bought a brand new, 13-foot Boston Whaler, complete with a 35 horsepower Mercury engine. I was in heaven. My mother thought it was cute to name the boat Pauve Pierre. When you’re 13 years old and trying to fit in, that was NOT cute. But it stuck. And for the next five years I put that boat to work — I ran it as a water taxi, I used it to deliver newspapers, I taught waterskiing lessons — that boat worked 16 hours a day and helped to put me through school. In short that boat took me everywhere and I got to spend as much time on the water as humanly possible. That boat was everything to me–my youth, my freedom. I could get out on the water and run wild!
In the meantime, what happened to all the boats that were bought by the other parents for their kids? Long since gone, abandoned, sold, forgotten.
I still have my original BosonWhaler. It has gone through eight engines. It was stolen once (and thankfully, recovered). It remained, until recently, as one of the oldest boats left on Fire Island.
And then, I decided it was time to honor that boat. I worked with Mike Borelli at Metan Marine in Massachusetts and Jeff Vaughan from the Boston Whaler company. We got in touch with Mercury Marine, and last year, we towed the 1964 whaler across the bay, and trailered it up to Metan Marine. And then, nearly 18 months later, the boat was completely — and I mean completely — and lovingly restored. Mike did an amazing job. He didn’t just rebuild it from the ground up. He strengthened it.. It was much more than new gel coat and paint, and new stainless steel. New woodwork. And a new 40 horsepower Mercury four stroke engine…
The boat, still named Pauvre Pierre (I can handle all the razzing now), was put back in the water, and I got to take it across the bay to Fire Island. It handled beautifully, and is actually now faster than it ever was. It literally flies out of the water, just as it did when I first got it. And then some.
It is also now both the oldest boat AND the newest boat on the island. As for me (see the picture) I’m still 14!
By Peter Greenberg for Peter Greenberg.com. Photos by Benjamin Salazar.