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Best Day On The Water: An Impulse Buy, Decades In The Making

Listening to music on a boat cartoon

Illustration: Gary Hovland

Whether in it or on it, water has been a constant source of happiness in my life. Despite this, I suddenly bought my first boat at age 56 — maybe not the best financial decision, but it has been a priceless purchase for my soul.

Our boat-savvy friend John took my husband and me out aboard my new-to-me 22-foot Bayliner cuddy-cabin, The Dance, for my first turn at the wheel. It was a sunny, breezy Saturday in September on New Jersey's busy Barnegat Bay. I lasted all of 2 minutes, rattled by what looked like boats coming from every direction, distracted by the tinted windshield, and in retrospect, I was going too slow for the choppy water, which made the boat handle sloppy. I was overwhelmed.

On the slow ride back, my heart was sinking. "What was I thinking? I can't do this!" Days passed, and thoughts of selling the boat went through my mind. Then I thought, I want this, and I CAN do this. I took the state boating safety course, learned boat handling from John, and watched lots of videos on backing up a trailer and launching a boat.

Everything went well on my first trip out with a girlfriend, and I felt more comfortable with each new day out with family and friends. But my best day came when I launched the boat by myself, then spent a glorious day alone, swimming, listening to county music, reading a book, and taking a wonderful nap. Trailering the boat home, I smiled and thought, I did it!

I know I still have so much to learn, but I respect the water and drive my boat safely. My 20-minute run at 30 mph for a day of anchoring at Tices Shoal is fine for me. When I'm on the water, I'm more in tune with the beauty around me. And best of all, I celebrate life.

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Antoinette Wagner

BoatUS Member

Award-winning BoatUS Magazine is the official publication of Boat Owners Association of The United States. The magazine provides boating skills, DIY maintenance, safety, news and more from top experts.