Oh, The Torment

By Obie Usategui
Published: October/November 2011

A moment's decision begins a life measured in boats.

Photo of sunset on the water
Photo: Bernadette Bernon

What was the exact date when it all happened? I can't remember. I just know it was 1973. I was 28 years old. I drove into this small Texaco station to gas up my old faithful Chevy, and there she was. My eyes were drawn to a "For Sale" sign tiredly lingering on the rusted bow rail of an unbranded blue "bowrider." The sorry-looking craft was powered by a 35-hp Johnson, strikingly abused by the rigors of salt-water. Strangely enough, the combination of vessel and engine overwhelmed me, to the point that its obvious deterioration propelled in me the unaccountable desire to own it. Little did I know that this moment would become a milestone in my life — the beginning of an everlasting love for boats and the ocean that would carry me to this day.

It all boiled down to price, I guess. How much money would the station owner be willing to sell his tired craft for? And, how much would I be willing to pay, now that I'd psychologically committed to the purchase? It didn't take long to know the answers to either question as the anxiety and exhilaration of becoming a boat owner quickly caved in to the owner's selling price of $300 — a price I thought was not only reasonable but outright unbeatable. No sooner had he uttered the asking price than I told him we had a deal. There you are. I was a "boater."

And We Know What This Is Like

In the months that followed, I realized what just about every boater has gone through at one time or another in their boating lives — the realization that this hobby, my newly found pastime, while immensely rewarding in many ways, comes at a high price in terms of headaches, disappointments, and unwanted expenditures. Let's just say, it's all part of being a boater. There's no getting around it. If you have not, at some point in your boating life, been left at sea with a dead engine; run aground in a shallow spot at low tide; or been towed to port amidst complete embarrassment in front of guests; you, my friend, cannot claim, not just yet anyway, to be a boater.

Photo of the bowrider with For Sale Sign

Well, my newly found love turned out to be no different. More often than not, my engine wouldn't start. Or worse, it would stall as the departure marina was still in sight. A few months of continued ordeals earned my loving vessel its name: The Torment. Family and friends unanimously agreed, outings on my beloved craft were anything but safe, and I quickly found an army of mistrustful invitees declining my courteous invites to go boating with me. Ironically, the unprecedented comedy of errors, aborted outings, and strenuous days at sea brought about by The Torment had become the subject of jokes and laughter at all gatherings of friends and family. In spite of it all, believe it or not, The Torment and I become seriously attached to one another. Of all things, throughout our strenuous relationship, I learned that boat outings and life had much more in common than we sometimes care to acknowledge or even understand. Both are, in fact, nothing but a series of continued challenges.

I learned that you must fight hard for the things you really want. I learned that the only way to succeed in life as well as in boating is to experience failures while learning to overcome them. I learned that overcoming is one of man's most powerful tools in their quest for success, such as making an engine start again after many failed attempts. The roar of a restarted stalled engine is very much the sound of success. It comes with an unmatched feeling of satisfaction, of conquering, of triumph. Whether we realize it or not, we go through life, restarting our own personal engines every so often, something we've come to know as motivation. We go through life always getting ready for our next outing, our next challenge, our next objective, our next triumph.

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