Our little fishing boat has been in the family for almost 60 years now, ushering generations of fishermen to successful days on the water. But it’s time to trade up.
It won’t be a sad occasion, especially given its present condition, but the ol’ MirroCraft will always hold a special place in my fishing memories.
The aluminum boat was purchased new in 1964. It’s a 14-footer and in its prime was an aqua color. The color, and the decals, have long since worn off.
The boat doesn’t have much freeboard, but it handled three adults fishing in some pretty good wind and waves at Sebago Lake, where conditions can go from tolerable to down-right scary in the span of 10 minutes.
We have never really had another fishing boat. Well, other than the heavy, but super stable, used tri-hull fiberglass rig my father bought in the ’80s. The crappy Chrysler outboard gave up the ghost a few years later and it became a lawn ornament before eventually being hauled away as junk.
Whereas that boat had to be moored, we’d just drag the MirroCraft through the sand, across the rocks and into the water and out again. It was easy and reliable. If I had a dollar for every hour I spent in that boat, I could probably buy a replacement boat, motor and trailer.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been eyeing area lawns and driveways and scouring social media in search of a new (to me) fishing boat. It has been a frustrating exercise trying to figure out what kind or size of boat to get, while also taking into consideration the age and condition of the craft, the outboard and the trailer.
Ideally, I would probably get a fish ’n’ ski type boat, maybe 17 or 18 feet. That way, I could use it to troll the traditional fishing grounds at Sebago Lake, or hopscotch among the horde of high-octane powerboats that overrun the lake during the summer and maybe pull someone on an inflatable tube.
The more I think about it, though, there’s something about the simplicity and maneuverability of a smaller, lighter aluminum boat. It will fit three anglers comfortably and can be towed around behind our Subaru Forester.
That way, I can even visit a bunch of other lakes and ponds and finally significantly expand my fishing horizons.
In the meantime, I must pay tribute to the ’64 MirroCraft.
I honestly don’t remember my first time fishing in the boat. Undoubtedly, it was with my dad, Bill Warner, and involved either trolling an F-7 Flatfish around the shore targeting smallmouths or maybe anchoring somewhere near Barnard’s Point during a nighttime yellow perch mission.
We did both of those things numerous times over the years and caught lots of fish. Perhaps the most memorable anchoring experience came on a mild summer night sometime in the ’70s.
We caught a handful of perch, and an eel or two. At one point, I hooked onto a fish and started to reel. All of a sudden, it was as though I had gotten snagged on bottom.
I pulled and reeled and reeled and pulled until the fish came to the surface. As I lifted the rod tip, my dad quickly maneuvered the net into position — just as a large pickerel released its grip on the tail of a small perch.
Both fish wound up in the net and set off a celebration befitting what remains a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The pike weighed more than four pounds and earned me a spot in the Maine Sportsman’s The One That Didn’t Get Away Club.
I still have a tracing of the fish on a piece of paper on the wall at camp that provides some of the details and the patch.
Trips in the MirroCraft yielded the first fish ever caught by my sons William and Paul, my wife Annia and my niece Sophie.
I also have served as a fishing guru of sorts for a handful of my cousins, including Lissy Savage, a brother-in-law, Tito Mena, and numerous friends. Former BDN colleague and outdoors columnist John Holyoke and I enjoyed some of the most productive fishing days of our lives in the MirroCraft, puttering along under the blazing summer sun and sometimes dredging up togue one after the other.
In my youth, when I first received permission to operate the boat on my own, I might have gone out in windy conditions and opened up the throttle to see how much air I could get off the waves. That was fun. Not very bright, but fun.
The MirroCraft handled it all and has survived these 59 years without any major issues. It’s on at least its third outboard, a mid-’80s 6 hp Evinrude that still gets the job done.
About the only complaint I can muster about the boat is that because it isn’t a deep-V configuration, you could occasionally get a wet foot when a wave washed over the transom.
Of course, in recent years the rivets began to loosen and allowed water to seep into the boat in a few spots. Taking the easy way out, I caulked around the area and slowed the leaks to an occasional trickle.
Then, two years ago, the years of dragging finally took a toll. A rock cut a slice in the metal, which had been worn thin by decades of grinding on the rocks.
We applied a bit of sealant to the area and stopped the leak, but the handwriting was on the wall. Its days were numbered.
The ’64 MirroCraft has been there throughout my fishing life. It has almost never let me down (I’ll spare you the stories of trying to fight high winds in a small, underpowered boat while fishing solo).
Without a doubt, my fondest memories in the boat are from my childhood and teenage years, when I went fishing with my dad and my uncle, Ken Warner. Those trips usually came in early May when everyone went to camp to hook up the water and do some spring cleanup.
The bitter taste from a tiny sip of Colt 45, and the sweet smell of Burley and Bright “Half and Half” tobacco wafting out of their pipes, are as fresh in my mind as any memories I hold dear.
It’s possible that someone in the family may want to continue the patchwork project of repairs and keep the boat afloat and operational. If so, I’ll be glad to chip in and help make that happen.
But, as with everything in life, the time eventually comes when it’s out with the old, in with the new (or at least new-er). Sometime soon, I hope to start making new memories in another boat, one that hopefully will do its job equally well while standing the test of time.