What Can You Do With A Little Powerboat?

First published in several Maryland newspapers, 10/14/88       

What can you do with a little powerboat?

by Tom Dove

Most shoppers at the United States Powerboat Show this weekend will be looking enviously at the big yachts afloat at the Annapolis City Dock and ignoring the many small runabouts on trailers ashore. After all, what can you do with a little powerboat? 

Lots of things. Half a million new boats were sold last year, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, and about 100,000 of those were bought by people new to boating. Most of these new boaters probably bought small vessels between 14 and 18 feet in length.

Fishermen generally know how they will use their vessels and choose their boats with the same care they use in picking a new rod, reel or lure, but other newcomers often buy a boat with only a vague idea of its potential.

The family’s first boat is often used heavily for the first season or two as Mom, Dad and the kids buzz around rivers, creeks and lakes, enjoying the fresh air and seeing waterfront places from a new perspective. Interest may then wane and the boat is used less and less each year thereafter.

It shouldn’t be that way. Small boats are perfectly suited to water skiing, day cruising and even extended trips for adventurous folks. A boat trailer expands the possibilities even more.

Water skiing and tubing can revitalize a small-boater’s interest in using the family runabout. Both are simple sports to enter and water skiing can provide years of new experiences as the skiier grows in skill.

Tubing is a simple version of skiing which gives a thrilling ride. The tube rider lies across a specially constructed float shaped like a car inner tube with handles which is pulled by a long polypropylene rope attached to a powerboat. The tube begins to plane across the surface of the water about the same time the tow boat does and the rider gets an exciting trip skimming across the water at twenty knots. The tuber can control the direction of the tube and cross the tow boat’s wake by leaning to one side or the other. The sensation of speed in tubing is greater than it is in water skiing as the tuber’s face is only a few inches above the surface, but the rider is unlikely to be hurt in a fall.

Small-boat skippers can cruise, too. In fact, with a bit of planning, they may be more comfortable than the crews of big yachts. There are many motels, hotels and bed & breakfast houses on the Chesapeake waterfront. What could be a better combination of fresh air and excitement with comfortable accomodations at night than cruising from one waterfront hotel to another by fast runabout? While the yachts ride at anchor and cook dinner on two-burner stoves, you can relax in a nice restaurant after a swim in the pool and then retire to a cool, pleasant room. Plan on running for only a few hours each day and on watching the weather carefully. At twenty knots, your cruising range will be impressive.

If the thousands of miles of Chesapeake shoreline begin to bore you, drop your runabout on a trailer and head to Long Island Sound, New England, or Maine and explore there.

Do you want a real adventure in comfort and safety? Take your little boat down the Intracoastal Waterway to Florida, stopping at hotels ashore or camping out along the way. If you can stretch out to sleep, you can spread bedding and stay aboard  occasionally. With a portable boat stove (NOT fueled by gasoline, unless you want to make a trip by air, too), you can camp aboard with nearly complete self-sufficiency.

You could even cruise through the Midwest via the Mississippi River system. Trailer your small boat to Wheeling, West Virginia or some other town on the Ohio River and launch it there.

Once in the Ohio River, you are floating in the arteries of the heart of the U.S.  You can go to the Mississippi, then north to Chicago and the Great Lakes, south to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico or west as far as Oklahoma City.  You can float among the waterways of the Tennessee hills and take the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway south to Mobile. Once at the Gulf, you can turn east and explore Florida or west and travel to Texas on the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway.

Little trailerable powerboats have no horizons. Who needs a big yacht?

— The End —

In many parts of the world, little powerboats do everything. Here’s a farmer taking his sheep to pasture in the south of Turkey.