By the time you’re reading this, a couple of big milestones will have passed. We’ll all be celebrating the start of a whole new year and I, personally, will have operated the “High Class Hooker” for a full five years since she replaced our old boat, “Fatal Attraction.” While both of those things serve to remind me of just how old I have gotten to be, they also remind me how lucky I am to be where I am, doing what I do.
I can still remember my thoughts in mid-December, 2010, as I was driving up to Jupiter, Florida, with some friends to pick up our new vessel--a 20 year-old 47’ Buddy Davis, then named “Wing ‘N It.” Of course, I was excited, but I had that knot in the pit of my stomach--would I still be happy to have her 5 years down the road? Well, here I am--and the answer is a resounding “YES!!” She, and the success we have had with her, have definitely fulfilled and exceeded all my expectations. Sure, there have been the usual boat repair/maintenance issues but, fortunately, they have always been the manageable kind. Read that NO MAJOR ENGINE BREAKDOWNS OR PROBLEMS, and especially no significant problems of any kind during our busiest months, when the cost of repairs can often be dwarfed by the additional lack of revenue caused by the loss of trips while you’re down. Knock on wood, but this “Hooker” has rarely disappointed a paying customer, has almost always provided a “happy ending,” and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being her main “pimp!”
One of the major reasons I chose this boat, was because of the slip that I had been fortunate enough to acquire the right to occupy when I purchased the old “Fatal.” It’s in a beautiful location, with constant daily foot traffic and multiple bars/eateries immediately adjacent or nearby, where people stare longingly for considerable periods of time. When I first began my new boat search, I guess that I didn’t fully appreciate that location, and my primary focus was simply finding a functional charter boat at the most reasonable price possible. Looks/style were really not a big consideration. Early during that search, however, I remember a few passers-by commenting on what a great location I had--something I had heard many times before, but just took for granted. However, the more I heard that, it placed the thought in my mind that putting an ordinary, “plain Jane” type of boat here would be a misuse of a valuable resource. The light slowly turned on in my head, and I started to believe that I could appeal to a certain particular, but very substantial, section of the fishing charter customer pool--those with families or groups that wanted a certain level of style and comfort and who had the financial wherewithal to afford it. From what I’d seen my first six years here, nobody seemed to be specifically targeting that market full-time. So, after that epiphany, every time I looked at a boat for sale I started to ask myself, “How will this baby look in the best slip in town?”
The funny part about this idea is that, once I began honing in on that type of vessel, I had to be careful about showing outward reaction to a seller when I saw some boat that really made me drool--and I looked at some pretty darn nice ones! Obviously, if you want to drive a hard bargain, you don’t want to be outwardly salivating while trying to convince the seller that he needs to reduce his price. So, I always maintained my best lawyer-like “poker face” whenever I did my inspections. Always that is, until I went down in the engine room of our present boat for the first time! What I saw looked as bright and clean as a showroom kitchen display, despite the fact that she was 20 years old and that the engines had close to 5K hours on them. I couldn’t help myself, and spontaneously uttered a very audible “holy f***!” The owner, who was my tour guide, heard me only too well. His response was simply: “That’s everyone’s reaction the first time they see this engine room.” Turns out that he was a retired boat broker from the North Carolina area; he and his wife had lived on the boat for a few years and, with their kids grown and living elsewhere, she was their “baby.” So, they spoiled her by doting on her--the interior being his wife’s domain, while the exterior and engine room were his. While at first I wanted to shoot myself for my show of emotion, I quickly realized that, as a boat broker and loving boat owner, he knew even without my faux pas that we both knew what he had. Fortunately for me, however, this happened in November of that year and he had family and other reasons why he wanted to sell before the end of the year. As a result, his asking price was surprisingly not outrageous. So, after I slept on it for a couple of days, had the boat checked out by a mechanic I trusted, and after he came down a little in his price, while I came up a little more in my offer--we reached a deal!
I was still a little nervous about my decision even after we got her into our slip in Key West with her new name. However, those fears quickly ebbed from the almost universal positive reaction I got from friends, locals, marina-area denizens, and passers-by--both about the vessel itself, and the new name we had chosen! The funny “kicker” to the story is that many of the people to whom I showed the engine room for the first time had the same type of audible reaction I did, right down to the exact two-word phrase!
Unfortunately, while I still try my 67 year-old best, that engine room doesn’t sparkle quite the way it did then. Running charters day after day takes its toll and limits your time for cosmetic detail work. However, I still feel great when some mechanic or service tech tells me, to this day, that I have an amazingly clean engine compartment for a 25 year-old charter fishing boat and/or that “it’s a pleasure to service her.” It feels even better when good repeat customers--which in the last 5 years have included high level business execs and entertainment celebrities--tell me that they initially selected my boat because it fit their wants or needs. I’ve even had some guys say that their wives or girlfriends insist on going on this boat, or not at all, because of the comfort level we are able to offer.
While my “satisfaction” with the “Hooker” is obviously a function of her looks and continuing good “service,” that probably wouldn’t be enough to keep me happy if she didn’t catch fish too--and that she has! I’m sure it’s not a function of the new boat alone--continued experience and the right mate(s) obviously factor into the equation--but I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that we’ve done very well in multiple local tournaments in the last 5 years with the “Hooker.” We’ve won one and placed “in the money” in several others. She was custom-built in NC to troll the blue water for large pelagic fish and her pedigree has followed her here.
So, the next time you’re in Key West, come by the beautiful A&B Marina on the scenic Old Harbor Walk. Check out our beautiful “Hooker” in the best slip in town and, if you are of a mind, give her a try. We think you’ll love the ride, you’ll have a “happy ending” and you’ll probably catch “something” that you’ll actually be proud to bring home--or just to a local restaurant!
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