Last November, a day after our freak early winter storm, I shoveled out the 206 Key Largo Centre console before it’s new owner arrived to hook up to it and pull it away. Months previous, I spent a significant amount of time contemplating a number of things with regards to what type of boat I can see fit for my business and lifestyle as well as affordability.
I have been wavering between purchasing a bigger boat that stays on a dock vs a boat of similar length as the Key Largo but slightly different style. My discernment included the follow factors to swing my decision;
Adaptation to a changing fishery
Although we are still in a very good place on both Lake Ontario and Lake Erie fisheries health, there has been significant change. These changes have me thinking I need to be more adaptive, more versatile, be agile and limber to what swinging punches come our way.
Lake Ontario Observations
Lake Ontario’s Western Basin is Struggling Risk (Threat) – This will likely continue to struggle for the next five years (minimum) as we ride out an imbalance of predator/prey biomass. The sky isn’t falling, but there are some adjustments I need to make to position my business for what Lake Ontario still provides and where there are gaps. This includes; 1.) The dramatically less Rainbow Trout population after the 2014 and 2015 cold winters causing Thiamine Vitamin deficiency. This creates a quagmire for alternative Western Basin Mid and Late summer opportunities for when Salmon numbers are low. 2.) The significant lack of late summer salmon action with reduced number of returning salmon in the Western Basin tributaries since there isn’t natural reproduction and stocking numbers are down. In addition to this, Pen projects have been stopped this spring due to COVID-19 which will mean less imprinting for salmon stocked at Port Dalhousie for 2023.
Dockage Availability Risk (Threat) – In 2019 marina were closed and limited in fuel dock and other facilities for anyone looking to moor for the season. In 2020 COVID-19 has all Marina’s closed and even if we return to normal, the amount of time to bring things back to operation and make dockage services available once more, might not return this season. Not to mention the lack of income might cause some private marina businesses to be forced to foreclose.
Niagara River, Port Dalhousie and now Hamilton Harbour walleye have become a new opportunity.
Lake Erie Observations
The walleye population explosion Risk (Opportunity) -causing significant impacts in other fish populations, namely the perch numbers are down. Smelt numbers are also seeing a lower population count that has turned some of the walleye to turn to the shallows for large Goby especially in early summer. The creel limits and other increased measures to help harvest and control the walleye populations might be the result of fisheries managers.
Options for Eastern Basin Walleye Techniques Risk (Opportunity) – Its not just for mid summer trolling for chartering. The lake has provided other options that has engaged other techniques to catch walleye and extend the season. Walleye numbers are so high that it has extended the seasonal fishing opportunity and lake wide range and has expanded techniques. Shallow water trolling fishing into early summer and again in late fall, jigging deep water reefs in late summer, and casting and jigging in larger rivers like the Upper Niagara River and the Lower Grand River in the late fall and early winter.
The bass populations continue to be strong and does provide guiding opportunities in Fall. The bass diet has become more diversified as goby numbers seem to be dropping and more traditional shiner jigging and casting techniques, we used in the 90’s, are coming back.
With the above mentioned the other boat style and design will follow some other additional factors.
Asset Lifecycle and price point
I am 2/3 of the way through my career at the City of Hamilton. My pension planning says I have 10 more years before early full pension retirement. Financially I have a mortgage that will be paid by then, two kids that will be done what ever post secondary they need covered and that leaves me with a smaller than needed budget to buy brand new. I need a boat that will last for 10 years minimum, one that can be purchased at a price point that will not make me boat poor. One that operates efficiently and with less overhead. So here are my selection constraints for selecting the right boat that fits the above directive.
1.)Only deep V fiberglass or heavy weld aluminum hull would do. The longevity of a hardy hull and the kind of ride to preserve my back.
2.)Capacity/space/comfort of 3 adults to keep with the same current business format which puts you at a minimum 20ft length
3.)Extend my season into the early winter (by December 15th) to take advantage of the Niagara River steelhead and walleye, Port Dalhousie Brown Trout, Bass on Lake Erie, and Hamilton Harbour Walleye means a different format for multispecies with large deck space for casting.
4.)Need more horsepower to get up and go, with no fumes of a 4 stroke, and it had to have low hours to maintain longevity if older vintage.
In addition to these… I had a price range in mind and I was preapproved for that amount before looking at what else was above the price range. I didn’t care if I had to travel days on the road to find the right one. I knew that Yamaha outboards were far and away much more important to have then any other brand. Price for a Verado or a Pro XS would need to be -$3000 and an Etec wouldn’t even be considered. I am a consumer not sponsored and my dollars will only be invested in the best when it comes to power. No sacrificing motor quality to bring price point down I got to rely on the power behind me. After much investigation I also knew what was a good number of hours on the motor and the vintage and brand of boat.
Researching brands of boats it was clear that a Walleye style boat was most fitting my format. If Heavy weld aluminum was in my sights it would be on a Harbourcraft, Hewscraft, Stanley or the alike. Not some of the riveted models or light weld aluminums. If it was fiberglass walleye boat I was looking at a Skeeter WX series in 2090, 2100 or 2200, Ranger 620 or 621. In all of these makes, the Ontario market is weak in providing options. Simply put- everyone likes there riveted light aluminum boats in Ontario. That meant I needed to look more in the United States. This meant all sorts of other things to think about when shopping for a boat in the US.
1.)The exchange rate at the time was $1.35
2.)There are no tariffs applied to used boats but the 13% HST was to be added onto the US price tag.
3.)If the boat was being sold by a dealer- it might also be subject to a State Tax. So pricing out values needed to consider the private sale and a negotiating range on a dealer boat.
4.)The preparation for bringing the boat across the border needed attention. More on this to follow.
5.)Not unlike buying a car, seller silliness is all over the boat sales industry.
6.)The weather for towing the boat need to be clear.
7.)Find someone who will ride with me for hours listening to my rants and hear me singing to the country music on the radio?
Bringing over a boat across the border needs significant planning. Planning with a time table and balancing the bidding process with a prospective seller with concessions of payment of a boat sight unseen. It’s a balance of seller patience and trust with buyer commitment and organization.
Leading up to finally finding my boat, I was ready to purchase 3 other boats but when your gut instinct tells you to steer clear – listen close and ask the questions that are most difficult.
The first boat I was ready to pull the trigger on was a Skeeter WX 2090 and it was nearly a done deal when I asked the owner on the second call if there are any Liens. Sure enough, there was a significant portion of the value of the boat rolled up in a lien with a bank. A lien can be paid for during the purchase agreement when you buy the boat but you need to have the ability to pay off the lien with the seller along side, during business hours and with the total amount on hand. This also means the difficulty of carrying a new title to the boat and the lien release form for both the boat and trailer. The complexity is far greater to sift through when you get the boat to the border and sort all of this out at Canada Customers.
The second boat was a Skeeter WX 2100 and the seller neglected to tell me until the third call that the motor was recently rebuilt and still was in break-in period. Because this information was given late in the negotiations, I had no trust in the seller and backed out.
The third boat was in Texas and was a great looking Skeeter WX 2200 with a 300 Yamaha. I found out the motor was part of a twin on a big boat and this was the motor with the proper rotation (on twins, the port and starboard motors rotate opposite to one another). The motor might have been perfectly fine but considering the lack of knowledge on the history of the motor and then the 26 hour drive to see the boat, I decided not to make an offer.
The boat that followed me home was a match of all criteria, buy and seller patience and trust, I was committed to having all details planned out and organized and with a timetable to drive out and buy the boat.
About the boat and it’s history
The boat was located in Stillwater, Minnesota by a private owner who was the second owner of the boat that had known the previous (original) owner. The 2006 Ranger 620 VS was powered with a 4 stroke Yamaha 250 horsepower with roughly 100 hours. The seller bought the boat in 2017 from the original owner with only 57 hours on the big motor and when he tried the kicker motor – It wouldn’t start because it was used so little the carburetor needed to be cleaned. He got it running and has been good the past two years.
The seller described a very similar story about high water levels not unlike the lower Great Lakes. He said that the St Croix River has been shutdown to running the river with a wake. All year 2019 they couldn’t run the big motor to get the boat on plane. The boat had little use and it was evident when I went to see the boat.
Numerous calls back and forth lead to the agreed upon price, timing and transfer of all the details that I needed to get the paperwork started for my return across the border. That paperwork included:
1.)Vehicle Import Registrar forms which requires the Trailer VIN number, history report and lien clearance, as well as copy of title, and any recalls. I gathered numerous pictures of the trailer, the VIN number of the trailer, the ownership title of the boat with Trailer and I arranged my insurance coverage for the boat, motor and trailers before I was on route.
2.)Insurance required Trailer VIN number, VIN number of the Yamaha 250 outboard and the Hull Identification Number. A list of other additional items like the electronics the boat came with and the kicker motor and its VIN number. Then also a breakdown of value of each as it sum the agreed upon price.
3.)According to MTO, I was allowed to tow the boat without license plate, but because I had a plate already, I went into get a new plate owner slip so it was on hand and easy to read.
4.)Although we had discussed everything on the phone between me and the seller, I also had everything followed up in an email back and forth. Then I printed off the email thread conversation that also discussed our negotiated price and the agreement of no deposit because I wasn’t interested in sending money with site unseen. Also collected was a series of pictures and photos of all the title documents.
5.)I ran a background check report on the boat using the Hull Identification number which told me the ownership history, any accidents, recalls and encumbrance that will prevent the acceptance of crossing the border.
6.)Money wise I not only negotiated, but also prepared to carry the money on hand across the border under the rules. I had a portion of the moneys in a Certified Bank Draft in US dollars as well as $3000 in cash. You are only allowed up to $9999.99 in US Dollars cash on hand when crossing the border. The bank draft is allowed largely because the intended recipient in named on the bank draft and it matches the sellers name and address and description of the boat.
7.)To ease the mind of the seller I also had the seller’s financial institution call my bank to confirm the moneys were there and ready and what format it will be coming in as a Bank Draft. Some US banking institutions don’t recognize a Canadian made bank draft even if its in US funds. The call in advanced allowed the two institutions to verify the transfer will be successful.
8.)Lastly, I needed to book my places of stay with very aggressive timelines to maximize drive time with my Minnesota arrival to be a decent timing to connect with the seller. The target time was 5 pm on Saturday and we were 30 minutes before! Talk about perfect timing. In addition, we wanted to be coming across the border in late afternoon on Sunday. So careful planning set out stop/stop locations to book our overnight stays.
Friday, February 7th at 1:30 pm I left work in Downtown Hamilton and drove to pick up my son Aidan at his highschool in Grimsby for 2:45pm. Run home and finalize our packing and then pick up my dad and hit the Highway. We got to the border in Sarnia at 8:00 pm and got through without any concern and stopped in Lansing for the night. Woke up at 6:00 am had breakfast and hit the road by 7 am. There was a snow that covered the roads and we got a bit messed up in our directions first thing as we circled around and then finally got on route. We found the worst part of our drive was driving around Chicago with more road cut offs and basket weaving roads then anticipated. The GPS kept telling us to go towards the City and we wanted to avoid the City.
The location of our stay on the second night wasn’t booked yet as we were unsure what to anticipate for timing, weather, and any other hiccups along the way. We instead drove to Madison, Wisconsin by lunch time and looked at our timing and plans and decided to book a room in Madison so we force ourselves to get that far before the end of the day as we backtrack our route.
To change it up, my dad drove for the next 4 hours as we made it to Stillwater, Minnesota and finally to see the boat.
The boat was inside a large garage with the cover on and all cleaned up. I helped roll up the cover to take a look inside and the interior was in great shape. No stains or wear on the carpet, even on the step up to the front deck. The deal was made and then backed up the truck, hooked up and waved good bye.
The signs on the highway and on the local radio announced an approaching winter storm. It was to hit Minnesota and Northern Wisconsin at 3:00 am with a snowfall of between 6 and 9 inches. Besides the safety and delays that might occur when driving in wintery conditions, I also didn’t want my boat to be covered in salt and slush and road grime. We were booked to stay that night in Madison, Wisconsin which is the southern part of the state and looking at the local weather suggested that instead of 3 am it would hit Madison for 6am. I said to my dad and son, if there are any flakes falling- we are loosing sleep.
I slept with one eye open partly because the kind of people I saw around the area we were staying and was worried about the boat and truck, and of course the pending weather coming in. 5:00 am my other eye opened as the snow started to fall. I leaped from the bed and straight to shower. My dad was up just as fast and we had to drag Aidan out of bed and into the truck to hit the road. We were pulling on to the highway by 5:45 and was near the border of Illinois by 6:35 where we stopped for breakfast and fuel and being chased by periodic snow blowing. No accumulation on the roads so we kept on our route and clocked the miles and managed the border by 3:30 pm and still no accumulation on the roads and no salt trucks.
My preparation for the border allowed the easy and fairly fast customs visit. Highway 402 to 401 was Hammer down and we got to dad’s in Stoney Creek at 6:30 pm. On our way to Beamsville we stopped at the car wash to spray down the boat and trailer and then arrive in the driveway for 7:30 pm. The snow was coming down good my then and we were happy to know we won- we did it, 32 hours of driving in 2 ¼ days and everything went smoothly.
The next day I stored the boat at dad’s and planned with Grimsby Tackle to begin rigging. Also took the boat to Canadian Tire to have the Trailer inspected and MTO certification of safety compliance sticker. Three weeks later the boat was at Grimsby Tackle’s show for Rigging. Next Blog is about boat rigging.
The Key Largo went out with a snow storm and the Ranger came in with a snow storm. Both boats go and come in like Lions, does that mean that the Ranger will stay like a Lamb?