I like food. No, I mean I really like food. And when I say that, I mean I like the whole food chain from top to bottom, beginning with marshmallow fluff and continuing through potato chips right up to really old asiago, punchy merlot and artisanal ciabatta with a roasted garlic, sundried tomato and balsamic tapenade.
I’m kind of the same way about boats, too. Sure, I have my preferences, but really I just like stuff that floats, and as they say, ” a bad day on the water is often better than a good day at the office.”
So, earlier this year when I received an email from Robin Jettinghoff at WoodenBoat that would allow me to broaden my boating horizons, I jumped at the chance. Robin asked me if I would review a boat for the 2013 edition of WoodenBoat Magazine’s Small Boats, and not just any old boat, but a classic little outboard hydroplane known as a “Sea Flea.” I said “but of course,” and she put me in touch with the good folks at Muskoka Sea Flea who arranged to get some boats together at one of their cottages. Mid-morning on a bright summer day, my son Benjamin and I arrived with our PFD’s, some cameras and a change of clothes. And then some boats arrived. And then some more boats arrived. And pretty soon, there were kids and grownups and little outboard hydroplanes everywhere.
As well as being used by parents and kids, these boats are often built by parents and kids. Like so many dreams, they began in the pages of magazines like Popular Mechanics, or Science & Mechanics.
15 hours? 15 bucks? Who wouldn’t want to build on of these, especially when the designs have names like “Minimax,” “Hasty Hydro,” “Hydro Kart,” “Spitfire,” “Yellow Jacket” and “Skeeter?” The oldest boat in the water that day was built more than 45 years ago and still going strong, which isn’t bad for something made from a sheet of A/C fir, ringnails and porch paint.
And are they fun to drive? Absolutely. And are they loud, and potentially annoying if you do too many circles over and over again off someone’s dock? Absolutely. But are they worth a try (and I say this as someone who used to complain about boats just like this as I went sailing)? Absolutely.
So how do you get on the water? Drop in to www.muskokaseaflea.ca, watch the videos and check out the downloadable plans. Visit them at their annual “FleaFest” event in Muskoka in late summer. Check out ebay for back issues of the magazines if you’d like to have your own dog-eared, yellowing copy of the plans. Rehab an old 10HP outboard, buy some plywood and clear some space in the garage. Add water. Go fast. Oh, and pick up a copy of WoodenBoat Magazine’s 2013 Small Boats which reviews more than 20 designs for oar, paddle, sail and power small craft, including, of all things, a canoe with a sail.