Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Can't even give this boat away

I’ve been thinking about writing a column about the joys of owning a boat.

I’ve been thinking about it for 50 years. I have concluded that there aren’t any.

It’s not that I don’t come from a family of sailors who would make Popeye look like a wimp. Perish the thought.

My father always thought, for some reason, that it was important to own a boat. But not one with a motor.

Oh no. That was not for him. It had to be driven by the wind.

He had two sailboats that I recall. One was called “Puffin” and the other was “Saturn.” It was the latter, a steel-hulled boat, that almost got an entire family killed – our family!

Many years ago we went sailing on a peaceful – or so we thought – Sunday afternoon on serene Lake Erie, when suddenly a terrible storm came up.

It rained so hard we couldn’t see where we were going. That big wooden thing that holds the bottom of the mast swung around so violently that it knocked my mother’s watch right off her wrist. It is still at the bottom of the lake.

We had no idea where were headed. It was like flying blind – except we were sailing. Somehow my father got us back to the Chagrin River. I took my two little girls ashore and kissed the ground. True story.

My mom and dad used to take the boat on Saturday night to McGarvey’s on the Grand River for dinner.

When the wind was blowing real good it took them about 15 minutes to get there from Eastlake and about five hours to get home. Sailboats are like that.

My brother’s experience with a boat has left him totally disgusted, frustrated and without hope. Here’s the story:

In 1951 my aunt and uncle, Wreathe and Ethel Sherman, went on vacation in Northern Michigan with their best friends, Roger and Fran Davis of the funeral home in Willoughby.

Someone asked my uncle if he wanted to buy a $1 raffle ticket for chance on a 16-foot Lyman boat with a trailer. Sure, he said. When they got home he got a call saying he had won the boat. They had to drive back to Michigan to get it.

My uncle loved that boat. They joined Chagrin Lagoons Yacht Club and went for a boat ride every Sunday, weather permitting. But my uncle succumbed to the boating disease. Everyone who gets a boat wants a bigger one. Which he did. But he couldn’t part with the Lyman.

It remained in the family – forever.

You may think forever is a long time – and it is. Much too long.

Wreathe and Ethel never had any kids. But they had the Lyman boat. For some reason, my brother ended up with it.

Here is where the story gets really complicated. My brother took in a partner, a fellow surveyor, in the boat.

They co-owned it. The partner had a wife and three kids. The man died and the wife died. My brother now co-owned the boat with the man’s kids.

For many years, the boat never went into the water. It was stored in one side of David’s two-car garage. His pickup was in one side and the boat was in the other.

We had three cars in my family. I have a car, Mary has a car, and I had a very nice Sebring convertible which
I did not want to have sitting outside in the winter.

To make a long story short, we asked my daughter Kim and her husband, Dan, if we could park the boat, on its trailer, in their back yard.

It has been there now for four or five years.

Kim and Dan want us to get it out of there. We are willing. But we can’t.

The boat has a title. It consists of five numbers. Ohio has a new boat numbering system – 12 numbers. The title can’t be transferred unless it has 12 numbers. There is no legal way Dave can get 12 numbers. So it sits there – with five numbers.

My brother’s one remaining partner agrees: “Get rid of the boat.” Ha! He can’t sell it and he can’t even give it away. Not with five numbers. The Ohio Department of Waterways, or whatever it is called, is populated with bureaucrats. They tell him he can’t sell it and he can’t give it away unless it has 12 numbers.

This is a perfect example of the government working against decent, law-abiding citizens. Some friends have suggested we insure the boat, set fire to it and collect the insurance. This solution has a problem: You can’t get insurance without a title and you can’t get a title without 12 numbers.

There is one other small problem. It is called arson, which, as far as I know, is a felony.

I have suggested cutting the boat apart, one board at a time, and taking it out to the street, one board at a time, on trash night. This would take months, maybe years, and I know exactly what would happen.

There are scavengers who come around every night and pick through trash for “valuables.” They would re-construct every one of those boards and rebuild them into a boat.

I say, let them get the 12 numbers to get rid of it.

The boat is still sitting there. You can see it by appointment. If you want it, it’s yours – free. Let’s see you try to get the 12 numbers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

same thing happens now with vehicles with the old numbering system. two trucks had to be salvaged instead of titled.

May 7, 2014 at 3:25 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Loved the story, grew up in a sail boat racing family, scows, the difference to many of us Michigan ex-pats is 'inland lakes' and some of those lovely channels to the Big Lake, which is nothing to be toyed with. Little folks can enjoy the sounds and joy of sailing on a safe inland lake. Start with the Sailfish, a Butterfly, C-Scow, and then the big leagues, E-scows, much fun, much learning. Lake Erie is not a beginners class.

May 11, 2014 at 4:39 AM 

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