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Avoid big boat buying mistakes

December 17, 2015
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

It's official! You can't take it anymore. You're in Florida - Sportfishing Capitol of the World and a boater's paradise.

There are boats everywhere you look of every size, color, and description and now you want yours. Your next step could result in years of happiness and wonderful memories or a nightmare experience.

For many, the old adage that the two best days in a boat owner's life are the day of purchase and day of sale to often is true. If you pick the wrong boat for the job at hand like so many do, you're on a course to miseryville.

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Capt. George Tunison

Maybe you brought your deep-v with you from Boston and plan to get out for some Pine Island flats fishing? That didn't work out so well and you now fully understand the cost when running aground without membership in a tow outfit like Sea-Tow. (New boater? Get a Sea-Tow membership today.)

Every year I'm asked to help new boaters with their purchases. I do believe that in learning from my mistakes I've saved quite a few folks from making some costly choices.

Define the mission. Flats fanatic poling in six inches of water? Family outings, swimming, diving, fishing, with a head (toilet and privacy) mostly used for the bays and river?

Offshore hardcore fishing machine, or comfort cruiser? Will it be trailered, docked, or on your boat lift? Will I use it enough to actually justify a purchase? What options do I need and don't need? How much horsepower and what are the best brands?

Hard to find one boat that does it all in this area of super shallow water, especially in winter when we experience even lower water, negative tide days.

If you're cruising along with the family in your new shiny, expensive purchase and notice that you're closely passing wading birds only wet to their ankles remember reading this and my advice to you.

You are in trouble. You are now on plane with most of the hull above water. Without knowing it you've missed a marker and now skimming along in your two-ton beauty in just 20 inches of water. As long as it doesn't get shallower (probably will) and you don't touch the throttle in a panic (you probably will) reducing speed, slowly turn the boat toward the channel and pray you make it to deeper water.

Reduce speed at all and your hull comes down off plane and you instantly bottom out, which could be life and boat threatening.

This is a common occurrence when boating these waters. Point is, this whole area is very shallow. Keeping an eagle eye on your markers, charts, and maps is vital. This one factor alone narrows the choices when it comes to boat buying.

When going out for a day of boat shopping be ready to experience sticker shock. New boats cost a fortune which is why good quality, well maintained used boats are pricey and hard to find.

Those who intend to fish super shallow flats most of the time the choice is easy and a dedicated "flats boat" is in your future. Offshore anglers sticking to deep channels and playing in deep water aren't usually bothered by the area's skinny waters so it really isn't an issue when shopping.

Folks fishing a combination of flats, bays, rivers, passes, and that venture offshore in the right weather find the "bay boat" is their best choice.

Usually in the 20-24 foot range with a 150300 hp motor and tee-top for shade, for most these are the ideal do-it-all boats that float skinny, but are capable of surprisingly rough seas making near shore trips safely.

When buying don't under-power the boat. Ask for advice. I'm glad to help. Do your homework. Define your goals and buy accordingly.

Buying used? Always have a competent marine mechanic go over the motor carefully before buying.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or, or



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