- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 31, 2004

Several weeks ago, I bought a new boat that will do wonderfully well in lake and tidal river fishing situations. It’s not that the old one didn’t do the job — it performed splendidly — but the time had come to think about adding more comfort and peace of mind even at the risk of explaining it to a skeptical spouse.

In my case, and that of ever-increasing numbers of local anglers, aluminum is preferred over fiberglass because there are times on the tidal Potomac when you bump into hard objects (such as the rusted, protruding metal from old sunken ships in Mallows Bay) while maneuvering about with a bow-mounted electric trolling motor. I can see the tears welling up now in the eyes of a fellow who has just put a nasty scratch into his $40,000 sparkle-painted fiberglass beauty.

That out of the way, Clements, Md., marine dealer Francis Guy and I put our heads together and kind of designed a boat that is heaven-sent for a fat man.

Yes, a fat man. Let’s not sugarcoat it. I’m a 285-pound realist who can eat an entire slab of barbecued ribs without batting an eyelash, and I knew that my beloved 18-foot-long, slender G-3 aluminum bass boat would get me into trouble sooner or later.

Yes, the G-3 is perfect for lithe, fleet youngsters (that’s anyone under age 50 and under 200 pounds), but of late I’ve grown suspicious of anything that moves or sways when I don’t want it to.

Francis Guy came to the rescue.

“What you need is this 18-foot Sea Ark,” he said recently, pointing at a whopper of a heavy-duty aluminum boat that sported a 95-inch beam (this is not a printing error — it’s one inch shy of being eight feet wide). The boat was painted olive drab and was devoid of any pretty accoutrements.

What really caught my eye was a U.S. Coast Guard tag inside the boat that certified the broad craft to carry 11 people — or six Muellers.

“Now we’re talking,” I said. Francis smiled knowingly.

The Arkansas-based Sea Ark company has been specializing in building boats for commercial fishermen and waterfowl hunters who carry abnormally heavy loads — hence the 11-people rating. (To be fair, there are other boat manufacturers who make massive aluminum models. War Eagle is one, and I’m sure there are more.)

“That’s for me,” I said as I looked at the big Sea Ark. Francis, a St. Mary’s County native who fishes and hunts when he has time, suggested I order a blue paint job on that Sea Ark, add a starboard side console that would house the steering wheel, accelerator controls, gas and RPM gauges, bilge pump, running lights and power switches and a cup receptacle. There would be a bow-mounted 65-pound thrust, saltwater-proof MinnKota trolling motor, bass boat seats front and aft and a livewell to keep fish in.

On the back of the big boat, we ordered a 90 hp Evinrude E-Tec outboard — a motor that has the nation’s boating press gushing with compliments.

Although I can’t verify it yet — having run it only five times — the E-Tec is supposed to get the best gas mileage for any motor of like size — 4-stroke or 2-cycle — and it far exceeds emission control standards demanded by the government, not to mention the fact that owners of this revolutionary new motor will not have to return for service at the dealer for three years. That alone ought to say something about the confidence the owners of Evinrude have in this motor.

What I can say with certainty is that the E-Tec motor runs like a scalded rabbit and the engine fires up just as promised — at the first turn of the key. Not only that, it planes immediately. Guaranteed.

What else is guaranteed is my being able to waltz around that big Sea Ark without so much as having even a little worry. I can step anywhere I choose (even clumsily), and it stays in place. No shifting, no leaning. Try that with a bargain basement aluminum. Such things are important for a big guy like me.

An added plus is that, big as it is, it can sneak into shallows as only an aluminum boat can.

Could it be that I finally found the perfect Fat Man’s Boat — and one that’s a pretty good bargain at around $15,000?

Look for Gene Mueller’sOutdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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