Lessons in Boating: So This Is Why My Father Told Me Never to Buy an Aluminum Boat.

by Owen James Burke

Scuttlefish writer Owen James Burke is currently rambling around New Zealand in a camper van with a camera, surfboard and speargun in search of stories, waves and fish. We’re putting together a waterperson’s guide to the island nation, but meanwhile, we’ll be publishing stories and photographs, short updates along the way from the Yankee in Kiwiland. -CD


Don’t ever buy an aluminum boat with rivets. This is never a good sight, but I must admit it evoked comical imagery from my Disney and Looney Toon-watching days. Word to the wise: A cork or partially chewed gum may work in the cartoons, but it most certainly does not work on an aluminum boat in the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Owen James Burke.

I promised I’d buy myself something classic for my seaward adventures in New Zealand. Something wooden, open-sea-worthy. Timeless. Big sweeping lines with a tall, sheer bow, ready for any swell the South Seas might throw her way. Instead, I ended up with a small, leaky tin boat. I suppose I got what I had coming.

We used to call those “fizzies”, my dad replied when I wrote to report that I’d purchased an old aluminum boat.


Yes, the entire deck of my poor, neglected skiff doubles as a livewell and petting tank. At least my mussels, abalone and sea urchins can stay fresh. Photo: Owen James Burke.

My time in New Zealand is soon, regretfully, coming to an end, and in part I am happy that I chose not to invest in something grand that I’d only have to let go. But, after multiple trips to the welder and several hundred dollars into my post-purchase expenses, here I was again. Fortunately, she’s since been welded shut, and my welder–whose pockets are now just a little further lined–gave me the famous Antipodean affirmation regarding the serviceability of any mechanical entity: “She’ll be right.”


I do, however, remain unconditionally appreciative of my (knock on wood) ever-reliable Mercury 2-stroke on Tindori’s transom, which has yet to fail me yet. Photo: Owen James Burke.

“At least you know you’ll be on the welder’s Christmas card list this year”, my father recently wrote me.

Well Dear Old Dad, here’s hoping.


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