The second day of January was beautiful, full sun, low 40’s, wispy clouds and slight breeze.
Once I leave the creek and make it into the Severn River, I look downriver and can see all the way to the Eastern Shore, and in the other direction, all the way to the Severn Narrows, easily 10-plus miles of visibility with no other boats in sight. What a great day to be on the water, even in the middle of winter!
That said, I was on a mission. A delivery mission.
The Renovation of the Albert C
My 1988 21.5-foot, pilot-style Chesapeake model, Steiger Craft was on its way to spend the rest of the winter at Smith’s Marina in Crownsville, Maryland, on the Severn River. She had an appointment for extensive retrofits, upgrades and repairs. I had purchased my dad’s boat a few month earlier after he decided it was time to turn in the keys.
I had driven The Boat up on a trailer from Ocean Pines across the St. Martin River from Ocean City, Maryland. And over the fall, I had a few cosmetic and electronic improvements made before she was christened with her new name, Albert C (after my dad). It was a good start, but I had a vision to take our family fishing heirloom to a whole new level.
In the meantime, Albert C and I did quite a bit of fishing during the fall as she got acquainted with her new home waters on the Severn and Chesapeake Bay.
So as I approached the boat lift well at Smith’s Marina I started to have mixed feelings, of excitement and apprehension. After all, Albert C was going to be out of the water for a couple months. At least she was going to spend the winter in a completely heated shed. Turned out, it was one of the coldest winters in 50 years.
Smith’s is my ‘go to’ place for fuel, bottom painting for Club Level (our 48’ Sea Ray Motor Yacht) and hurricane weather storage. Rick is the third generation owner, who bought it from his dad. His grandfather founded it in 1947. Rick is the real deal. He is authentic, trustworthy and will only take on a project if he can do it, and do it right. That’s why he was the only one I was going to let oversee this project.
My ‘vision list’ was extensive, nearly 50 items; many of them complex and involved. For example, two of the deck access plates had gasket seals that had failed years earlier, causing water intrusion and softness in the floor. The windshield gaskets were rotted and leaked like a sieve. Two of the glass panes had delaminated. And, I wanted to have glass hatches installed in the hardtop for much needed summertime ventilation.
There were a number of spots in the gel coat that needed cosmetic surgery. The 18-year-old Suzuki 140HP direct oil injection, 2 stroke outboard had over 4,000 hours on her and it needed some attention. The lower drive unit had to be pulled, water pump and impeller replaced, and the power tilt had a nagging hydraulic oil leak.
The Suzuki decals and surface paint lived well past its life expectancy, not a surprise considering all of the sun and salt abuse it had lived through. My dad was not sure if the outboard was still operating as strong or running as fast as it did when he bought it nearly 20 years earlier; he never ran it at top speed. I, on the other hand, know she tops out at 36 mph without gear, a half tank of fuel and just me running her.
So while she’s in the shed, she gets a cylinder compression check. All four cylinders show she is still at factory spec deviation: 130-140-130-140, WOOHOO! The only other thing to do was to pop the prop and run it up to the boys at Miller Island to be tuned and re-hubbed.
The Work Begins
Six years ago, when Club Level was having her bottom painted, I needed to have her house-batteries replaced and some electrical work done. Rick said he doesn’t do that kind of work and referred me to a technician who he thought was one of the best on the Chesapeake. He gave me Steve Katz’s business card but then said Steve spends a lot of time taking care of multi-million dollar, sport-fishing boats in Ocean City that run 60-80 miles offshore to fish “the Canyons” for marlin and tuna. So he wasn’t sure Steve could help me.
Fortunately, Steve answered the phone on the first ring. Two days later he finished all the battery and electronics work on my Sea Ray and thus began our relationship.
Steve is one of those unique guys who LOVES to fix and rebuild stuff before he replaces it. He is a Master Certified ABYC Technician, one of less than a handful on the east coast. Not only does he know everything about electronics, he is a whiz at A/C & heating systems, plumbing and electricity, diesel and outboard engines, hydraulics, electrical motors and an endless list of anything marine.
Over the years he rewired one of my boats and rebuilt, retrofitted, repaired, modified or replaced things on two other ones I own. He was now going to finish up what he started in the Fall when he replaced wires, got the running lights to operate and replaced non-functioning and rusted electronics on Albert C.
Steve moved the battery and corresponding wiring from the stern to the cuddy cabin (Rick personally built the double-battery hinged box) and a second battery. He added a battery charger and computer-controlled 12 volt balancing system. He installed LED underwater, cabin, cockpit and gunwale lights; removed the badly corroded dash switch and replaced it with two isolated, much safer rocker-panel assemblies that could handle the demands of more sophisticated technology. Oh, and installed a port windshield wiper, since Dad never had one.
Steve also handled the Suzuki internal repairs, while Rick handled her exterior cosmetics. I emailed pictures to Dad and called him via FaceTime to share the boats progress.
The Family Tradition Lives On
After two months of weekly visits by me, Albert C was splashed — just in time for rockfish trophy season.
She is beautiful, functional and, in my mind, just as good as new! Albert C is ready for her next quarter-century. Fishing, crabbing, cruising, picnicking, drifting and beaching. On the Severn, Chesapeake and points in-between. With family and friends.
We went through trophy season in style, as you can read about in my fishing report (blog). Nearly everyone in the family caught fish worthy of pictures and bragging rights.
Gary is an avid sport fisherman out of Annapolis, MD, who loves casting, trolling or jigging for rockfish on the bay, chasing marlin offshore, flats fishing for barracuda in the Florida Keys or pulling in monster Halibut in Alaska.