by Andy Schneider
As anglers of the Northwest, we all day dream of doing things a little different, something to give us an advantage while out fishing. For some, it's better fishing equipment. Others, it may be a bigger boat. And for some, it may just be some basic knowledge to cure eggs properly. Growing up, I always had a desire to pursue fish from some sort of boat. My parents would buy me a new Sevylor raft every year for Spring Break and by the time school started again, that raft would have patches upon patches and needing air every 15-mintues. But I harvested countless trout from Rosyln Lake and navigated some pretty tough rapids on the Sandy to find some late Spring Chinook and Summer Steelhead. When I got to High School, I found I was quickly outgrowing those inflatable rafts and was dreaming of bigger, sturdier boats. While my classmates were thinking of how to buy their first car, I was trying to figure out how to buy my first boat. Lucky for me the Sentry Market that my mom worked at had a Hamms Beer display with the Hamms Bear sitting in a 11-foot Colman Crawdad boat. At the end of the summer season, the store owner was trying to figure out what to do with this semi-assembled boat sitting on top of the beverage cooler. After some negotiations between my Mom and her Boss, I was a proud owner of a fairly sturdy plastic boat!
Fast forward 25-years, and I'm still trying to figure out bigger and/or better boats to buy! Lucky for me, I came across a pretty reputable dealer and salesman early on in my boat buying career. Chris Burgi at Stevens Marine, sold me my serious "Jet Sled" and has since sold me 6-other fishing vessels that have served me well. My recent purchase was a 23-foot Alumaweld Columbia. After owning 3-other Super Vee's, I was ready to try something a little more 'multi-purpose'. And after hearing some pretty glowing reviews from other Columbia owners, I decided to take the jump. After some 'hem-hawing', some long discussions with my better half, pricing and comparing competitor boats, I finally put some money down to have the boat built in late March. That put delivery of the new boat to mid-October and left me plenty of time to sell my current Super Vee and plan on how I wanted the new boat laid out.
Having a boat built to your specifications is pretty addictive and hard to go back to 'dealer stock'. But having the freedom to build whatever you want, all comes at a price, so you need to prioritize exactly what you want and will utilize the most. Unless budget and spousal company isn't a priority, then why not add those rod lockers, heated seats, power steering, power windlass, autopilot and diamond plate; lots and lots of shiny diamond plate!
Another advantage to having a boat built, is that it isn't any more expense than anything the dealer has sitting on their lot. Often times, it actually may be less expensive, since you will be only adding items that you want. Hands down the worst thing about having a boat built, is the wait. There is no way around a couple month wait for any boat manufacture right now. It's definitely a boat sellers market and there are not many signs of it slowing down anytime soon, so be prepared for a couple month to a year wait, depending on the manufacture.
We have all seen those "Boat Build" threads on here, they are extremely entertaining watching a boat get put together from plates of aluminum and diamond plate. Make sure to inform your salesman that you want to be part of the build process and want as many pictures as they can send. Once your boat is built and painted, make sure to be involved with the rigging process. Switch panels, electronics, sacrificial anodes, motor rigging/plumbing and accessories all need the buyers input to be put in a location that works best for you. Daydreaming about your new boat at work, is the time to be visualizing where you want everything mounted, routed and zip-tied into place.
After having the new boat for exactly three weeks today; it has performed exactly as I'd hoped and the entire family thoroughly enjoys it. I can't say that it's going to be my last 'sled' boat, but it is definitely going to keep me happy for a long while....Diamond plate bow guard and transom corner "nerf" guards keep rock chips and dock rash to a minimum.I was a little worried that the 175 wouldn't be enough for the boat with the pump, but after talking with David Johnson and a couple other guides running this motor on similar sized boats, they assured me that it would be fine. Now after running it a half dozen times with different loads and in different conditions, the motor will do everything I need it to and then some.
Mercury updated the 9.9, with a throttle advance on the choke and a wider throttle range, making this trolling motor a lot easier to start than my last with a lot better throttle control, especially at lower RPM's.Standard layout, after having lead trays along side the seat boxes on my last boat, I wouldn't think of not having them again. They offer a great place to keep for soda pop, snacks, tackle and of course lead, out of the way and from tipping over, or sliding and rolling around in the gunwale. I also added an additional rod gripper each to each side of the boat, for more rod storage.Having a 3 storage areas is a great bonus. The middle compartment is just a dry storage that my Kill Bag fits perfect in, with enough room for my tackle bag and everyones rain gear. Anchor locker in the front compartment the standard split fish box in the rearward compartment.Having a electronics locker is a great way to secure your expensive sonar/gps combos and a good place to keep small tackle items handy. Hot box plumbed in on the 3/4 transom box with storage underneath for battery, oil reservoir and trash can.I went with diamond plate gunwale combing to keep the Pups from scratching the paint.Most importantly the boat catches fish! My son, Ayden, caught the first fish in the new boat, after 15 whole minutes of fishing! Since then, it's caught fish on every trip!
New boats are a luxury that I've been allowed with a good job and family support; both that I'm thankful for every day! While having a shiny new boat is very nice, it's best trait is that it allows me the opportunity to take family and friends out to experience the bounty that the Northwest provides. This new Alumaweld definitely brings a smile to my face, but so did that Colman Crawdad!PS. After reading this post, it sure reads like a giant advertisement (lol)! But the service, quality of the product and competitive pricing has brought me back time and time again to buy a new boat.....