Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nautical Notes

We sold our party barge yesterday, ending a very brief nautical adventure. I have a vivid imagination, and sometimes it gets me in trouble. I imagined that having a party barge would be great fun since Bayou Plaquemine runs right behind our house. So we bought a used party barge, complete with a trailer and an aging motor.  We had the motor tuned up.  The seats were in terrible condition. We ordered new seats and had some custom upholstery done. We put new carpet on the floor. I say "we," but it was Jerry who did all the renovating work. I was chief cheerleader, gopher, and bill payer.

When it was finished, I thought it was a thing of beauty. And I loved cruising the bayou on it. I hate a little boat that requires you to sit still to keep from tipping it over. A pontoon barge is stable, allowing you to get up and walk around on it. We have a dock on the bayou, and I thought we would be able to keep the barge in the water, next to the dock. It would be really handy to jump in and go cruising on the spur of the moment.

Now I'll get to the reality part of this story. Outboard motors don't get very good gas mileage. Gasoline almost reached $4.00 a gallon the first summer we used the barge. It seemed like every little outing we took up or down the bayou - barely out of sight of the house - cost us at least $25.00.

Then we started to realize that this nautical toy wasn't going to be a thing of beauty long if it stayed in the water. Pretty soon the new white vinyl seats were beginning to grow greenish mold. The pontoons collected some kind of scummy film. So we took it out of the water. But we could see that it wasn't going to fare much better sitting on the trailer in the yard. If the trees weren't raining leaves down on it, the sun was baking it. We decided the barge would just have to be kept in the barn - not so handy for spur of the moment trips.

Even in the barn with plastic sheets covering it, the darn thing wouldn't stay clean. A barn is built for horses and people, not boats. In the summer the barn doors have to be open for ventilation so - like most barns - our barn is a dusty place. And the barge seemed to be a dust magnet.

We had to admit we were in a nautical nightmare when we woke up one day and realized that we were paying someone to maintain a barge that we weren't using. Why weren't we using it? Because - since it wasn't in the water - it couldn't be taken out on the "spur of the moment." Driving to the nearest boat landing and getting it launched was a project that we never seemed to have time for. Maybe we would have had time if we had sold the horses, given up all our other hobbies, and devoted ourselves to the party barge.

Trying to keep the barge was a nightmare, but getting rid of it wasn't a piece of cake either. It took us a year to sell it. I hate having something for sale. You spend a lot of time answering phone calls and waiting for people who say they're coming and often never show up. If the item doesn't get sold right away, all your friends start offering their opinions as to why it's not selling. I heard a lot about how old and outdated the motor on the party barge was - something about two strokes vs. four strokes - or was it one stroke vs. three?   Even though the motor worked, some of our friends couldn't believe that anybody would ever buy the barge with that motor on it. I thought the renovated barge and trailer - without the motor - were worth what we were asking, which wasn't much.

The party barge is gone now, and I was never so glad to see something go. We didn't make a profit. In fact, I'm not sure we broke even.  Jerry certainly didn't get any compensation for all his hard work. I think the people who bought it got a good deal. I hope they enjoy it. And I hope it's their only hobby.

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