When I was in my forties, my family owned a place on a large lake in southern Virginia. I was still young, healthy, strong and suffering from the delusion that I was in control of my young daughters. I decided to buy a midlife crisis boat so that we could better enjoy the lake. We went skiing, tubing, cruising, fishing and playing the way one does on the water.
At that point in my life, I wanted to go fast, as did my young children. My wife often accused me of acting like a member that particular demographic. With that in mind, I shopped for fast bow riders, including Chris Craft and Sea Ray. I settled on a twenty-two-foot fiberglass Chris Craft, with a large V8 engine, a very large gas tank, and an attraction to marinas with gas pumps. That boat hardly ever missed a gas station, although in fairness, it did go fast.
My wife, daughters and I skied, tubed, wake-boarded and generally had a great time on that boat. When we decided to eat lunch at one of the restaurants on the water, we could get there fast, before starvation set in. Children aren’t the most patient of creatures. We boated hard, played hard and I took a lot of naps.
Over the next few years, the lake got crowded. On weekends, it became like boating in a wave pool. The bow rider didn’t seem like such a great idea anymore. With all the wake, the front of the boat went up and down faster, more frequently and violently than the boat moved forward. No one could sit near the front, for fear of being thrown up in the air and out of the boat. We used to call the front seat the child-ejector.
As time passed, I also aged. Shocking, I know. With age comes weakened joints, back and neck problems, easy bruising and an inability to withstand constant pummeling. My visits to the chiropractor for neck and back adjustments increased in frequency from monthly to weekly as the lake wake became rougher and rougher.
Conversation with chiropractor:
Chiropractor, “Hello, John. Been out on your boat again?”
Me, “How can you tell?”
Chiropractor, “It has something to do with the moaning and the fact that your head appears to be permanently turned to the left. You also appear to be bent over, staring at your left shoe. I’m guessing you need a couple of adjustments.”
During one especially traumatic visit to the chiropractor, his cracking my neck sounded like the breaking of a large tree branch. I knew it was time to do something. I traded my beautiful Chris Craft, the Corvette of boats, for a 22-foot pontoon boat with three pontoons (i.e. tritoon) and a 130 hp Honda engine. The boat was still fast enough for the children to ski, and it didn’t bounce nearly as much. This allowed me to only go to the chiropractor every other week.
My daughters, now in their teens, were not pleased. “Really dad? A pontoon boat? Isn’t that an old man’s boat?”
My eldest daughter put it more succinctly. “I’m not gonna be seen in an old fart’s boat. It’s embarrassing. You should call the thing the Elderboat.”
But, when the boyfriends showed up for a fun weekend, somehow I still managed to convince them all to go out for a bit of tubing or skiing. The guys actually preferred the tritoon. With the Chris Craft I could flip the tube and toss them half way across the lake, but not so much with the less maneuverable pontoons. I may have been guilty of some small amount of mistreatment of the boyfriends. After all, I am a father of three daughters.
So, over the course of my life I learned about the evolution of boating on a lake. I started out with a fast bow rider, lots of fun. Both the lake, and I aged. The lake got busier with age, resulting in more serious wake, and I got more frail, less able to deal with said wake. I became great friends with my chiropractor, seeing him more than the members of my own family. Eventually, the bow rider evolved into an old fart’s pontoon boat, an Elderboat.
In summary, actual evolution is about survival of the fittest. But, when it comes to lake boating, evolution is about survival of the old fart:)