Preserving The Family Fishing Boat

Over the last few years, my dad (Albert C.) and I had quite a few conversations where he bemoaned the fact that flounder fishing had become pathetic. He would complain that the fishing size limits were making it impossible for him to bring home any keepers (over 18”). In fact, over the last few years, the master flounder pounder would frequently return home with an empty cooler for dinner.

The other (real) issue was that he was having some difficulty physically keeping up with the rigors of maintaining The Boat as he got older. Repeatedly during the last year-and-a-half, he mentioned that with the combination of no fish and boat upkeep, he was considering selling it, perhaps moving into a small aluminum model with an electric or propane motor for cruising the canals with Mom or crabbing in the St. Martin River.

Dad had been piloting “the boat” since 1988, but it didn’t seem that long ago. The memories came back: Dad went to a boat show and met a waterman named Al Steiger who was producing a boat that met his needs, a 21-foot, pilot style that could scoot along the shallows. It had a hardtop/cuddy cabin combination that would protect him from the elements and provide plenty of fishing room.

It was the perfect boat. So, Dad bought the ‘Chesapeake’ model 21.6’ Steiger Craft made in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York.

Gary & Albert Oster on Albert C
Gary (left) & Albert (right) Oster on “The Boat,” a Steiger Craft

Since then the boat has logged over ten thousand operating hours, taken countless friends and family members (parents, sons, daughter in-laws, grandkids, great grandkids, brothers, nieces/nephews) out on the water. The boat went through two outboards, both Suzuki 2 stroke 140HP models, and was still holding up well.

My wife, Lisa, and I talked about how to handle the situation of dad giving up the boat he loved. She asked, “Why don’t you see if he would like to bring the boat up to the Severn River?”

This is an area where the perch, pickerel and rock fishing has been consistently outstanding. And to make it even easier, there was a vacant, 10,000-pound lift right next to our motor yacht, “Club Level,” that would comfortably hold the Stieger Craft.

I mentioned her idea to him, saying that it would be a shame to sell the boat to a total stranger who didn’t know all of the family history or significance the vessel carried. He said it sounded interesting and he would think about it.

Much to my surprise, he called me the next day and said he would sell it to me. I said, “Great!”

The Transition

We arrived at a mutually agreed to price, and began put into motion the next phase of the boat’s history.

Albert Oster kisses his boat goodbye
Albert Oster saying goodbye to The Boat while his wife, Ann, laughs in the background

The next week, I borrowed my friend Charlie’s boat trailer and his SUV so Lisa and I could trailer the boat from its home the St. Martin River to its new home on the Severn River, near Annapolis, Maryland.

After a great Eastern Shore lunch made by mom, Dad and I lowered the boat from his lift into the water for its final trip on the St. Martin. After a 30 minute canal and river run, we took the boat to the loading ramp where I cranked it up onto the carpet-covered running boards, and strapped her down on the trailer for the 130-mile ride over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Western Shore.

The boat trailered in front of the Annapolis house
“The Boat” spends the night on a trailer in front of the Oster house in Annapolis.

We got home to Annapolis just around dark where she spent the night in front of the house.

A little after 8am the detailing crew arrived to begin an intensive compound and two-coat wax job, which they finished many hours later. While they were working on the topsides, I was busy getting a new title, stickers and supplies (fenders, new lines, etc.), the first phase of organizing the boat for its new life of fishing on the Chesapeake.

Detailing work on the "Albert C" fishing boat
Detailing work begins on the “Albert C” fishing boat

I also managed to squeeze in a fresh coat of black, bottom paint. Halfway through I remembered stating publicly, decades ago, that I would never, ever paint another boat bottom. So much for saying never.

With that nasty job done, and the paint dry, I got behind the wheel of the SUV and towed the boat to the Severn River. After a bit of tricky trailer maneuvering at the neighborhood boat ramp, my new/old boat splashed in the late afternoon sun.

Once I returned Charlie’s vehicles to his house, I climbed on board and nervously ran through my dad’s verbal list of pre-departure to-do’s that he etched in my memory. I took a deep breath, said a short prayer, and turned the ignition key. The Suzuki started up within a nano-second. Hooray!

Albert C fishing boat
“Albert C” fishing boat (right) next to “Club Level” cruising boat

The ride was spectacular due to the beautiful early September evening sunshine, nearly absent winds, and the mid-70 degree temperature. I pulled the boat to the end of her new dock and then onto her new lift. To me, she sure looked happy, sitting securely at her new homeport.

Phase 1 of Her Extreme Makeover, Including — A Name

Many projects were completed such as newly installed Raymarine HD fishfinder, ICOM VHF radio and antenna, roof mounted Wahoo rod holder, new LED running/interior lights, Delco marine battery, two fresh coats of Awlgrip on all non-gel coated fiberglass, new foul weather enclosure (made of Stamoid and Strataglass) and many more items. The list was 24 items long.

I was working feverishly to get the boat back to ‘near new’ after dozens of seasons of salty exposure. And here’s why: the boat never had a name. We called it “the boat.” I’d decided to give it a formal name. Mom and Dad were coming to Annapolis for one of their weekend getaways and we needed it to be ready so they could participate in the naming ceremony.

During all of the boat projects, I was racking my brain to come up with the perfect name. Lisa again came to the rescue by providing the best idea of all — the “Albert C.” It would be named after my dad.

I had to work quickly to get the name ready and invitations sent to all of our friends and family so they could be part of the christening ceremony the same weekend mom and dad were in town.

They arrived on Thursday night. I asked them to put on a small piece of paper the name they thought was chosen. I told them we would look at their folded ‘guesses’ the evening after the event (none of them were even close).

My dad was going to get the first look because he and I were going to go fishing the next morning. My mom would have to wait until evening.

The Christening Ceremony

After a pre-sunrise breakfast, my dad and I jumped in the car and drove to the dock, and was he ever surprised to see the name on the boat.

In my nearly 60 years, I have never seen such a spontaneous reaction from my father, the chief fisherman of the Oster family. He pivoted and gave me the biggest hug I’ve ever gotten from him. I saw wisps of tears at the corners of his eyes.

That evening, as everyone was arriving for the dockside christening ceremony, my mom peeked. She saw the name and began to cry.

The ceremony was officiated by friend Charlie. My dad beamed and my mom cried during the entire event.

"Albert C" fishing boat naming ceremony
Charlie Kreter officiates at naming ceremony for the “Albert C” fishing boat.
Albert Oster christens Albert C
Albert Oster pours champagne on newly renamed boat, “Albert C”

The upgrades and improvements to Albert C continue to move forward.

As I walked down the dock this past weekend, making my way to where she is ‘perched’ on the lift, I started thinking about the future of the boat.

I am not sure what I am going to have more fun doing: fishing for dinner, cruising at wide open throttle or just ‘messing about’ doing boat projects — making the Albert C the best fishing-machine a guy like me could ever own.

Oster family
The Oster family (from left to right): Albert, Gary, Gary’s mom & Gary’s wife, Lisa

 

About Gary Oster

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.

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