The best boat is a free one with some good history. Credit: Courtesy of Chris Sargent

In 1971, she was brand new, shiny and top of the line. Now 52 years old, she’s dented, scratched and oxidized — hardly a showpiece.

At 14-feet-long with a beam width right around 53 inches and a shallow drafting Semi-V hull, she’s not intended for much more than perfect conditions. Somewhere along the way, previous owners opted to dress her up with some black paint on the bottom of her hull and added some type of textured green paint to her floor, presumably for better traction.

She rides atop a small black trailer that I’m more than certain is far older than me and I’m also convinced is likely either completely homemade or at least significantly modified beyond its original stock appearance. She came complete with a mushroom anchor, bow and stern lines, two seats, a throwable flotation device, fire extinguisher, cover and even a broken paddle for use in case the beautiful, like-new Mercury four stroke 8 horsepower tiller outboard should fail.

She’s far from perfect but perfect for us and the best part is, she was free.

I tend to lean a bit toward the frugal side so when the price is free, I’m inclined to be far more interested. Such was the case one recent afternoon when my girlfriend Emily’s sister, Shaina Goode and her husband Ben “T-Bone” Theriault texted us: “Hey. You guys want a boat?”

My response was short and intended to be more humorous than serious: “Free?” I asked.

Shaina responded: “Yes.”

I was skeptical and wondered what potential goat-rope of a situation I was about to get into. Intrigued nonetheless, I asked what the boat was. Ben’s response squashed my apprehension and made me smile: “14-foot aluminum. I think you saw it? 8hp Mercury.” They had decided to upgrade to a larger boat and had no use for two. We could certainly put it to great use, though.

It was extremely generous of them and a deal I couldn’t pass up.  

I had in fact seen the boat a couple years earlier. It was a Meyers and I recall being intrigued by its unique shape, which screamed really neat, retro, old school fishing boat. Ben and Shaina had recently bought a beautiful piece of property on North Pond in Smithfield and Emily and I went down to help them spruce things up a bit in order to help get the two camps ready for summer renters.

The best boat is a free one with some good history. Credit: Courtesy of Chris Sargent

Ben rolled in with the boat, grinning ear to ear after picking it up in New Hampshire. We checked it all out and discussed how it would be perfect for use at the camp.

Both Ben and Shaina were excited to get out on the water with their two wonderful, spirited, fun loving young daughters, Layla and Whitney. We put the boat away, continued with our work and parted ways.

A few days later, we received several pictures of the family during their maiden voyage on the pond. It was hard to tell who had the biggest smile but it was clear to see nothing less than pure enjoyment was the theme of the ride. With Ben at the helm, Shaina and the girls’ hair blew wildly in the wind while the little motor pushed as hard as it could. I remember thinking what great memories they were making and how wonderful it was to see them having so much fun, despite the girls’ proclamation that “this speedboat isn’t very speedy…”  

A few days ago, my buddy, Dan and I took a road trip to pick up the freenboat. I was excited to get it home and as soon as it was unhooked from the truck, I set to work giving it a thorough inspection.

I began compiling a list of things I wanted to address. That green paint stuff in the bottom had to go, replace the seats, pound out the dents, remove all the stickers and the New Hampshire hull number. That’s when I saw it: a stack of meticulously applied registration stickers nearly one-half inch thick, I’d guess at least 25 or so years-worth.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized whoever previously owned the boat must have really loved and enjoyed it — dents, torn seats, green paint and all. Curious about the previous owner and history of the little boat, I reached out to Ben. He told me the guy they bought the boat from was Dutch and a chef for a cruise line who used it to fish with when he was home from work. He told me the man was moving back to Europe because the cruise industry had been decimated by the pandemic and he needed to part with it.

The best boat is a free one with some good history. Credit: Courtesy of Chris Sargent

That was all I needed to hear.

At least for now, barring some sort of safety issue, I’m leaving her just the way I got her. It’s easy to get caught up in the flash of new and improved, not allowing ourselves the opportunity to embrace imperfections for what they are and the stories they tell. That Dutch fellow loved the boat for what it was. Ben, Shaina and their girls sure loved it and now it’s our turn.

There’s fish to be caught, exploring to be done, years of fun to be had with our free boat and as they say, anything free is worth saving up for.  

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Chris Sargent, Outdoors Contributor

Chris Sargent is an avid outdoorsman, a former Maine Game Warden and lover of anything wild and tasty. Chris’ passion and appreciation for hunting, processing and preparing wild game has become more...