Arch Autenreith sent me this fine narrative and nice pictures of a recent boating vacation trip to Florida and back (twice) with his Boston Whaler 17-Montauk. Like any 2,200 mile trailering trip, there were some problems to overcome. Besides telling one heck of a good story, Arch reveals a number of subtle modifications to his boat's center console. For everyone with a Whaler currently buried in snow under a tarp in Minnesota and Wisconsin, read on.
My son Arch, his friend Nathan, and I drove down to Florida last July for their vacation leaving from Pittsburgh. As usual, we took the 1990 Grand Marquis with 195,000 miles to tow the 1984 Montauk.
The Shoreland'r trailer has surge brakes but I discovered the master cylinder had seized up sometime before the start of the trip. I didn't notice it until the day before we left. We didn't want to delay getting started so we just left. I thought that 99.99-percent of the time it would be highway driving and since I'm a very reasonable driver (don't drive much over the speed limit) I figured I'd risk it. One time while following heavy traffic around Orlando the line of cars in front of me just stopped. Cars were on the left and right so I had nowhere to avoid and just jammed on the brakes. I managed to bring it to a halt just in time (10-feet) by pumping the brakes hard. Something interesting about stopping quickly like that: with the preload on the tongue (about 150# or so) and in a panic stop the additional weight added to the hitch in a forward and downward direction (from the boat being slowed down so quickly) caused the front wheels of the car to not grip as usual. They started skidding much sooner and the front of the car didn't dive as usual. I didn't think it would act like that without the trailer brakes working. I have had periodic panic stops with the trailer brakes working and they were always fast and controlled. I still haven't gotten a new Master cylinder (Dico #60) but I will soon. Back to the trip.
My folks have a modest winter home in North Fort Myers and no one is there for about eight months of the year so we didn't have to worry about coordinating anything. Once there the drive to the Southern end of Pine Island is about 25 minutes. I got that launch location from another Classic Whaler forum member. I have forgotten who it was but thank you whoever it was. It was a perfect place to launch. St. James City itself isn't much but it was cheap. Five dollars to launch and park. Five dollars for 50 shrimp also, which was the bait of choice for Reds.
I'm pretty safety conscious but more so with kids and if I planed on going more than a half-mile offshore I filed a float plan each time. Once you personalize it it only takes a minute or so. It usually goes to one of my brothers. (If you need one I can send it as an attachment or as text.) I drilled the kids on the mobile phone to call 911. (I even tried it myself. 911 said that was the wrong # to use but would forward to the correct authorities if needed. I try making everything as easy as possible for the kids in case of an emergency.) I also showed them the proper usage for the hand held radio and the flares, etc. They both rolled their eyes a little at me but they really didn't mind. You NEVER know what can happen. This may sound obsessive to some but it always makes me feel at ease to have done this, especially when I'm the only adult on board.
Once all loaded up and in the water it takes about 20 minutes to idle the channel to before getting to Pine Island Sound. There are some 13-foot classics usually on the hard still attached to the hand-cranked cranes and also a beautiful newer Montauk on a lifting cradle.
We had very limited (read: almost none) 'luck' fishing. We enjoyed the weather and water too much to be content with sitting still in any one place long enough to do any good fishing. Boys ages 11 and 12 aren't too patient. Therefore we spent the 10 days in Florida about evenly split between the water and landlubbing. When we were on the water a good deal of the time was spent motoring around and going to the beaches, mostly on Sanibel. Eventually they tired of the day-to-day routines and needed more stimulation but I was mentally and emotionally tapped out. Being a single parent in situations like that and without anyone to help out took its toll on me. I had enough. Great kids, really, but enough was enough.
A boy, a boat, and a buddy
Arch (R) and a friend Nathan (L) enjoy the Gulf of Mexico with their dad's 1984 Boston Whaler 17-Montuak. Arch shows us a live sand dollar they just found. The stern all-around light has been made more practical (albeit less legal).
PhotoCredit: Arch Authenreith - Reference: 68-01
I ended up leaving the Whaler in Florida and driving them back home (1,102 miles each way). It was too expensive to consider a flight on short notice. Once back in Pittsburgh I rested 3 days and turned around and drove back down. It's about an 18-hour drive without the trailer and Whaler, and about 21 hours towing. I usually get a good night's sleep and as soon as I get up just drive straight through. For me, stopping other than for gas every 4 hours seems to add days to any trip.
Once back in Florida I didn't have to worry about the kid's safety on and off the water. Now I could relax.
I still had limited success with the Reds but was on a steep learning curve. A few Jack Caravels, too.
My most memorable day was captured on film. It was a beautiful sunny and clear day with low humidity as I entered the Gulf of Mexico through Redfish Pass. I still have the rebuilt but dependable 80-HP Mariner so my confidence for going offshore more than a couple miles is always low. When I was out there I just had one of those times when everything was right and wanted to capture it on film. (Digitally, of course.)
I have blue water cruised many times but it was on an old 42-foot yawl that always has 20 or 50 details that need constant 'thinking' in preparation to fix or improve (in addition to the safety of the guests) so my mind never really relaxed. Also maybe my age now is a factor: 43.
I got the throwable PFD and my non-waterproof camera and just started swimming around taking pictures. The swells were about 3-4 feet and the wind was almost non-existent. It's been, what, about a quarter of a century since I read Jaws but the fear, although much less, is still there. This was also the summer the shark attacks off the Florida East coast were publicized so much and added to my anxiety but it subsided after a while. After about 20 images I decided to get back on board convinced I was just tired of swimming and had nothing to do with sharks. ;)
In Salt Water
A beautiful day tempted Arch to go for a swim and take this view of this Montauk, back at home in salt water. The bow railing has been removed.
PhotoCredit: Arch Authenreith - Reference: 68-02
I know there is much discussion about swim ladders and platforms but using the anti-cav plate as a step, rear grab handles on the engine and the transom as hand holds works fine. It has to be a decisive, follow-through sort of motion using momentum by first submerging a little deeper before starting the upward motion.
On one of my last days I was fishing while anchored about 50 feet from shore next to the Sanibel causeway. The most unbelievable thing then happened. The anchor line started moving towards me then there was a lot of thrashing and splashing around and the bow was being pulled down and around so much I thought my brand new 3/8 line might break. Whatever it was sounded and started pulling me at about 5 kts around the bay. Even though I was startled I never really felt scared. I knew there was nothing that would pull the Whaler over or under and certainly the rope would break first. So here I am standing on the anchor locker cover on the front deck with my fishing rod in my hand with something pulling me around the bay. And I remember looking at people fishing onshore next to me with their mouths hanging open.
I put the rod down and tried pulling the line up but it didn't budge. I thought of cutting it but I had just bought it at West Marine two weeks before (150' along with a new length of chain and a new anchor), and I decided I wouldn't do that. So I pulled again and slowly it started coming up. All of a sudden I saw this enormous Manatee somehow tangled in the anchor and chain. I got it up to the surface and it went down again and burned my hands a little as the rope slid through. I kept trying to pull it up and releasing quickly thinking it would somehow untangle itself. Finally on about the fourth attempt it got off. I can't tell you how big it looked though next to a Montauk! I was huge at about 12-16 feet long and seemed nearly half as wide as the Whaler. When I pulled the anchor in there was a starfish on it and you can see what it did to the anchor shank. It certainly was one of the more unusual events I've had.
Trolling with a Danforth
Here is the anchor line and nearly new Danforth after it was snagged by a passing Manatee. Note the varnished teak anchor locker hatch and the custom hold downs.
PhotoCredit: Arch Authenreith - Reference: 68-03
My Boston Whaler Montuak is a 1984 that I bought in 1993 for (drum roll please) $2100. That was boat, engine and trailer. The engine that was originally on it was a 1990 90-HP Mercury, but the person that traded it in kept it for his other boat. (Or so the dealer said.) The dealer put on a used 1980 80-HP Mariner (Mercury) that worked okay for a couple years before I rebuilt it.
One of the best suggestions I got from the Classic Whaler forum was removing the bow rail. Over the years I spent an inordinate amount of time tightening screws, improving the screw backing material, climbing over and putting up with constant rattling and shaking. I know some really like it for personal reasons but I can't tell you how many times I nearly tripped while stepping over. Now the sun top no longer rests nearly on the front light/chock. It was always in the way especially when you needed to thread the anchor line underneath so it wouldn't chafe a hole in it. Now it rest about a foot or so back from the front and is tied down to the lifting eye so it doesn't bounce! It also keeps the locker lid from resting all the way forward when you open to get the anchor in and out. And, lastly, the front corner stepping areas are useable again.
Console with Custom Rod Holders
The rod holders are fabricated from PVC tubing and teak. Note the raised RPS using teak plank.
PhotoCredit: Arch Authenreith - Reference: 68-05
I designed and fabricated the 6-rod holder in front of the console. I used some scrap teak for mounting the PVC tubing to the console. I had made six more for the back of the Reversible Pilot Seat (RPS) but after having it there for a summer I decided the rods were in the way while walking around. I didn't want to throw them out so I 'temporarily' mounted them to the starboard aft railing where they've been ever since. With 3 people fishing on board 12 holders plus 2 in the RPS is enough although 3 people fishing on a Montauk can become a bit cramped at times.
Center Console Details
The steering wheel has been recessed several inches into the console to provide more clearance for the helmsman. It also aligns the wheel and the throttle. The ignition key has also been recessed into its original mounting hole. Atop the console a waterproof case holds valuables safely out of harm's way. Larger Pan Head screws have replaced the smaller countersunk ones to better retain the black instrument panels. The varnished teak looks very nice.
PhotoCredit: Arch Authenreith - Reference: 68-04
I refinished the teak last summer with two coats of varnish. I should have used four or five coats but I was out of time.
Two items of notice on the console: I 'sunk' the steering wheel 2.25 inches. It definitely is more comfortable to me now. My hand on the wheel is about the same distance fore and aft as the throttle and I can lean further forward. If you need my directions for doing this email me and I'll write instructions. I sunk the ignition also because I often leaned against the key with my butt while steering facing backward (trolling) choking the engine out. Also, I didn't like the key sticking out as the safety lanyard could tangle and/or break off the key.
I know I'll catch heck for this from some of you. I saw this done on a Montauk in the Chesapeake at Chestertown. I cut down the shaft on the all-around light to about a foot and a half. Now not only is it not in my eyes but I don't have to remove it when not in use. I never found an adequate way of storing it when not in use anyhow. Then I zip-tied a piece of rubber on the forward side to further keep the light out of my eyes. It folds down, too, in case someone questions me. (No one ever has.) I guess I don't recommend this but I like it anyhow. It's also a great place to loop the handles of a plastic shopping bag for garbage. Put in a little water to keep from blowing around.
A waterproof box is just silicon glued to the top. I find this indispensable! I can't imagine not having it. Phone, wallet, keys, change, flashlight, corkscrew, bottle opener, extra batteries, hand held radio, etc, etc. is in there. Couldn't live without it.
I forgot the fishfinder for some reason. It is usually mounted next to the waterproof box.
Oversized stainless steel pan head (not countersunk) screws are used at corners of the two removable black panels on the instrument panel. The original small ones either stripped more easily or vibrated lose often. After using the much larger screws I've never had another problem.
There is one key that fits both louvered doors. I cut off most of the key's head from the top, leaving just enough to still be able to turn it but also so it doesn't stick out too far. I just leave it in the side door. (You'll eventually hit your knee on it of you leave it in the rear door.)
Our author, after recovering from his vacation.
PhotoCredit: Arch Authenreith - Reference: 68-06
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This article first appeared December 29, 2002.
Last modified: Sunday, 01-Jun-2003 14:56:41 EDT
Author: James W. Hebert