Sinking money to float your boat

DULUTH — There are times when I’ve thought about standing on the lift bridge and throwing money into the canal as the water sweeps its way out into the big lake. I own a boat, and tossing $100 bills off the iconic span would probably be cheaper.

When I used to row Grandpa’s wooden boat on Diamond Lake as a 12-year-old, it was a big deal. Sixteen-foot watercraft like that are rare these days. They were heavy and a challenge to maneuver, but I still had fun. Then he got an aluminum boat with a five horse motor. I wasn’t allowed to run the thing, but could it go fast — for a 12-year-old.

A neighbor on the lake later that summer invited me over to water ski. After repeatedly failing to release the tow rope when I fell, and swallowing a gallon or two of lake water each time as I was dragged through the water, I finally figured out how to ski. There I was, on top of the water zipping along at 15 miles an hour. What a feeling!

As an adult, I’ve owned three fishing boats. The first one was a great starter boat, good for angling, a stable fiberglass vessel that could also pull the kids around as they learned how to ski. I graduated to a lighter, more powerful boat, and that’s where the money went.

Maybe the boat was jinxed. I don’t know. We had a lot of fun with it, fishing, skiing and cruising, but I went through two motors and became increasingly aware of the cost of maritime pleasures. Being a compulsive type, at least about motors, I swear I did all the maintenance and upkeep that was required — to no avail. I knew I was in big trouble when the boat started to crack in the middle. This required a trip back to the manufacturer and retrieval from the factory during a snowstorm. Yeah, not a good journey.


Finally, I decided to trade the boat in on a new one the next spring, just in time for the fishing opener. This time I got a larger guide boat. It’s been great, but after 13 years, it needed some work, especially when things electrical stopped running. Perhaps that 13 predicted bad luck; more things went south. The trolling motor just didn’t work.

I suppose you don’t really need one if you know how to fish. So who says I know how to fish? The fix required disassembly and putting it back together, the diagnostic process long and frustrating — but it's fine now.

Next thing up — depth finder. It showed me how deep the water was, but I didn’t know where I was. I know, I know — just look around. I got a new depth finder with a GPS that works, relieving some of the anxiety about hitting rocks on the way across a lake. Of course, wiring it in took some effort and a moment of panic, when a connection somewhere shorted and smoke started rolling out from the rear of the boat. Fortunately, it burned out before I could find the fire extinguisher.

Being near water is a gift. Having the privilege of being on it is its own reward. Even with my whining, don’t look for me any time soon opening my billfold on the bridge. I want to be in a boat underneath the bridge grabbing the cash from other despairing boaters who have given up.

Doug Lewandowski is a retired counselor, educator and licensed psychologist. Write to him at

Doug Lewandowski mug.jpg
Doug Lewandowski

What To Read Next
Get Local