Saturday, December 10, 2011

Some Of Our Boating History

I (Mike) grew up around boats. In the late 1950's and early 1960's our family spent every weekend on the sandbars on the Mississippi River above St. Louis, MO. My dad would put his 13' Speed Queen in on the cobblestones at the St. Louis riverfront, right where the St. Louis Arch stands today. In the late 1960's my dad "discovered" the Meramec River, a tributary to the Mississippi that flows over 100 miles from the Missouri Ozarks to just south of St. Louis.

This picture is of the "beach" at Minnie Ha Ha, a popular spot to launch boats on the Meramec River just at the St. Louis County Line. The second boat from the left is the 15' Slickcraft that my dad owned. It had a 100 H.P. Mercury outboard that was the biggest at the time. That's my mother next to it with the white bandana. I think there are curlers under there.
This hydroplane was the first boat of my own. I was 15 years old in 1970 and I paid $250 for the boat and motor. The boat was an 8 foot wood with fiberglass on the hull. The motor was a 1959 Mercury 10 H.P. tiller steering. 32 MPH baby! This is the boat I started picking up girls in.
 By 1978 I was dating my future wife Rosie for about two years and living on the Meramec River in a clubhouse I bought for $17K. This is the first dock I ever built, note the steel barrels used for flotation. State of the art at the time.
 The hydroplane was gone and replaced by this Jon boat. Kept the 10 horse Mercury though. The motor was stolen one night and the dock got caught in the ice during the following winter and the water came up and took the dock with it. I learned the first of many lessons concerning docks like this; take them out of the water in the winter time!
 We hit the big time here. Two boat owners! Yes, the canoe counts, along with the Jon boat. 1979 we experienced the first of many floods living on the Meramec River. Here is Rosie on the porch with our first dog Gus.
 This 18-19 foot Tri-Sonic was our first "real boat" we bought in 1980. It was a 1971 model and had a 302 cubic inch Ford engine. The boat was a sled. Here's Rosie waiting for a boat ride with the boat tied to dock number two. Note the fancy polypropylene dock lines.

 In 1981 we bought another Tri-Sonic with a 6 cylinder engine to replace the previous boat with an 8 cylinder engine. This 1976 model went just as fast and was way more economical to run. The fiberglass swim platform was the envy of many a boater here on the Meramec. Our first boat with a "built in" stereo! Note the antenna on the port stern. It was retractable. Yes, it was.

 This picture is important because it's of one our best "boat dogs". Tasha is on the left and Rosie is on the right. They're in the Tri-Sonic at Lake of the Ozarks. We had moved off of the Meramec River after the 1982 flood and trailered our boat to a few spots in our area.

This 1984 CS23 Cobalt was our first new boat bought in 1985. It was a 23' cuddy. I bought this boat in the late fall and it stayed at the dealer until spring. I must have gone to sit in that boat during that winter almost every weekend until I could take it home. This picture was taken at Bull Shoals lake on the Missouri/Arkansas border. It's a beautiful body of water still. We trailered this boat everywhere and boated on the Meramec, Mississippi, Lake of the Ozarks, Lake Kincaid in Illinois. One year we launched it in Kentucky Lake and traveled on the Tennesse River all the way to Wheeler Lake. I think the round trip was 8 days or so and that's when we first fell in love with really traveling on the waterways. We get excited about what is around the next bend in the river. We slept on the hook almost every night and since then, it has been our preference.
 One stop on the Tennessee was Birdsong Marina. It was just a little hole in the wall and they were having a crappie tournament. As we were getting fuel, we were invited by the owner to come back that evening for a community fish fry. This remains to this day our best recollection of a fish fry ever, and the moonshine being served in Mason jars "over in the corner" was some potent stuff.

 Don't ask me why we got rid of the Cobalt. It was the only boat we ever bought that was sold for more than we paid for it. This 1985 Ski Nautique was the second boat we bought new. We had friends that were into skiing a lot and we got caught up in it. This boat is still in use today.

 We had moved away from the Meramec for about three years and then moved back into another house there in 1986. So in 1987 we bought this Formula 242LS which was too big for the little Meramec River. Makes sense, right? If many of your boating decisions make sense, please let me know, there's an award waiting for you somewhere. This picture was taken at Lake of the Ozarks. We trailered this boat all over the place, Florida twice, and Lake of the Ozarks many times. One weekend we were at the LOZ and I didn't want to trailer the boat home, so we bought a condo with a slip that weekend and left the boat there. So now we were living on the Meramec River and owned lake property 3 hours away. Things were starting to get complicated.

 At our new house on the Meramec I built dock number three. It has wheels. In the fall, after boating season, I just hooked it to the trailer ball and pulled it up the boat ramp. The nice foam flotation dried out over the winter and kept the dock from floating away during the floods. Almost.

 This picture was taken on our second trip to Florida. On the first trip we trailered down to Jacksonville and launched the boat. We took a two week trip down the intracoastal to Miami and had a blast. We had so much fun that on the following year we trailered the boat to Sebastian, FL and traveled to Key West, where we spent nearly a week. We stayed at Marinas most of the time, but did anchor out in the keys some. It was another two week trip and one of our best vacations ever. There is a lot of stories to tell about these two trips to Florida with this boat and some of our trailering escapades, but this blog is about Swing Set and I'll get to that boat eventually.

 We sold the Formula and the condo at Lake of the Ozarks and in 1990 bought a used 1988 Ski Nautique. We got tired of the drive and the boat payments. This part of our lives would seem to be a sensible phase. It didn't last long. Anyway, in the picture we have our dock on wheels along with the old Jon boat, minus motor, on the Meramec River.

 Here I am barefootin' on the Meramec River. This is not recommended attire for this activity. When we meet, you'll know the reason for my high pitched voice.

 At the 1991 St. Louis Boat show, after a few beers, we bought this new MasterCraft Pro190. We put a Hydro Hoist in at the Meramec which we disconnected in the winter and pulled it out on its own trailer I had built for it. It was a nifty setup and we water skied nearly every day.

 Moving ahead a few years to 1994, after the big 1993 floods, we became the owners of a Chapparel 22 Sunesta deckboat. In this picture we are attending a wedding on the Meramec River. I was looking for more of a party boat as opposed to the MasterCraft and I got it.

 We were minding our own business on the Meramec River and enjoying life when Lake of the Ozarks beckoned us again. We bought this 1991 Signature 30 Chapparel in 1995, I think. We bought this boat, from a priest of all people, at Lake Center on the Mississippi. We put it in a slip at Snug Harbor near the Grand Glaize Bridge, if you are familiar with the LOZ. Things are starting to get fuzzy and complicated again. This was our first boat named Swing Set, as you can see. The name just came to me one day. I said it was complicated.
We had lots of fun on this boat, and took lots of pictures. We may show them some day, but again, this blog is about the current Swing Set, so we'll just move along.
 We kept this boat for about two years, sold it and bought another condo at the Lake of the Ozarks. Again we are living on the Meramec River and have a condo at the lake. We brought the Sunesta to the lake and bought a Jet Ski for the Meramec. This was the only sensible thing to do.

Well silly, anyone that boats at the Lake of the Ozarks can tell you that a 22' boat will not last long there as the water on the weekends is way too rough. After one season with the Sunesta at the lake and nearly busting it apart, we bought this new 1997 Formula 280 SS. This was the second boat to be named Swing Set and a friend owns it now and it still looks as good as new.
After a couple of more years of commuting to the Lake of the Ozarks every weekend and still living on the Meramec River where we still ran the Jet Ski around, we got tired of that and sold the condo at the lake and moved the boat up to My River Home Marina on the Alton Pool of the Mississippi. We took this boat on a couple trips up the Mississippi River to Hannibal and Quincy, Ill. We also took some trips up the Illinois River to Peoria and got as far as Joliet on a trip to Chicago once, but time ran out and we headed back home. This boat had CruiseAir, which spoiled us, but we could only use it at the dock and if we were able to plug into another boat while rafted up. We did a lot of rafting up. It goes without saying that the skiing days were over and the drinking days began. Only drank beer when we were on the hook, officer.

 We got tired of floods on the Meramec River finally. We moved to a condo in the city in 1999 and were happy spending our weekends on the Formula. Things were fairly simple again.
 In 2004 we were invited to a party at the Duck Club Yacht Club on the Mississippi and our friends had a slip there. As we were walking the docks, with a beverage of course, we spied this 1996 Sea Ray 400 Sedan Bridge for sale. We bought the boat and the slip it was in a couple of weeks later and sold the Formula 280SS a short time later. Note the Weaver dinghy brackets on the stern and dinghy attached.

 Before we even closed on "The Lady J", it became Swing Set. Here's Rosie in the cockpit. Some say it's bad luck to change the name of a boat, but if this boat has a soul, and can think, I would bet that Swing Set is glad not to be Lady J any longer.
 My next blog will be about what we have done to this boat over the last 6 years in the way of improvements, and the addition of equipment that we feel is necessary for living aboard "on the hook".


  1. This has been a very fascinating read, you write very well!

  2. Mike , your doing a great job on your blog, It’s probably therapeutic after all that money spent on boats. Hehe Just kidding. I’ve spent some great time in most of your boats over the years, but the one that was memorable that influenced me , was the 23 Cobalt, It seemed a little big on the Meramac , but I remember how luxurious it was, and I thought it would be the only boat you would ever need. The Sunesta was the one I almost forgot about for some reason, but we had great fun on all of them!

  3. What a great life! I ended up having beautiful children and a great life, but otherwise this would have been the life I'd always wanted!!

    Still might be time..... :)

  4. I really enjoyed reading about your boating days, I've been boating all my life, the past ten years on my own and have owner two boats, your story is very inspiring in my own progression of boats, marine life is my favorite pas time, thanks a bunch for the story

  5. Glad to have reconnected to your blog and am reading it from the beginning! I admire the fact that you two took the initiative, sold your condo, and took off. Sounds very exciting. I would love to do it and would consider it a trip of a lifetime! Good luck on all your travels!