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Riding the waves in a new vessel

April 5, 2008
By BRUCE KNODEL Tribune Chronicle correspondent
Last Tuesday was a fun day on the lake. Something I have not done in quit a few years. I spent part of Tuesday afternoon on Kirwan Reservoir in 25-knot winds with 40 to 45-knot gusts. The last time I had a ride like this was back about 1986 on Lake Erie with a new Auqasport boat.

The boat was much smaller this time, but the wind was the same. This all started back at the Penn-Ohio Boat Show in February. I had given serious consideration to a new boat with more horsepower so I can get back to fishing Erie for perch and close-in walleye. I was at the show with my son Pete and got to talking to another Pete from Ravenna Marine. I found out that Crestliner Boats was running a promotional on some of their crafts.

We stood leaning on a Crestliner Fishhawk 16-footer that was loaded and carried a 50-horse Mercury power plant on it. My son and I got to checking compartments and looking at boat features. The more we looked the more this boat fit Lake Erie fishing. Then my resistance collapsed and I had to ask the question.

‘‘What’s the best priceî?’’ I probably should have just kept my mouth shut. Pete the salesman from Ravenna began punching his laptop and came up with a price I just could not resist.

Now I did not walk out of the boat show with a boat. I did have a sales paper agreement of a possible sale depending on an ‘‘on water test drive.’’ I am of the old school. I don’t buy a pair of boots without trying them on. I don’t buy a car or truck without driving it and I sure don’t buy a boat without testing it on water.

Between the February boat show and last Tuesday I made at least four trips to Ravenna Marine. Measuring, figuring, thinking about equipment and anticipating a boat setup. What do I want to put on this boat that it did not already have and how do I want to install it?

About a week ago I stopped at the dealer and made ready for an on-water test run as soon as the ramps were clear of ice and you did not have ice floes on the lake. I don’t like being associated with the Titanic. We originally set up a test run on Kirwan for Wednesday. It looked like the only dry day of the week. As luck would have it, that changed.

Tuesday turned out to be sunny but windy. Sitting at the kitchen table Tuesday morning with my coffee and the Tribune Chronicle, I saw the weather forecast for gusts of 40-plus knots. The light bulb went on and I was on the phone.

‘‘Fellows I want to test my boat this afternoon,’’ I said.

The reply was in the affirmative and we were good to go for 2:30 p.m.

At precisely 2:30 Phil from Ravenna Marine pulled into the west ramp of Kirwan with my boat behind a Dodge pickup. We were off for a trip in some of the nastiest wind I have ran into in quite a while. For the next hour we proceeded to put that Crestliner through every twist, turn, skew and angle we could. We ran into the wind and with the wind. We ran cross wind and at an angle. The Crestliner performed flawlessly. I was totally amazed at the way the boat took the wind and waves.

I must say this is the first all-welded aluminum boat that I have ever owned. I am sold on welded aluminum if you are buying a new boat. Yes, I know some folks like fiberglass and some folks will swear by light-weight riveted aluminum hulls, but I am sold on all-welded heavy aluminum construction.

Due to the wind we could only operate at about three-quarter throttle. Even so, with the power trim of the big Mercury power plant we did not take any splashing of water back into the boat once you came up on plane and proper trim.

Even with the wind factor it only took four shots to get the boat back up on the trailer with drive-on loading. Remember there are no docks in at the ramps and Kirwan is about a foot above normal pool. Nonetheless the Crestliner came up on the trailer and you could step out of the boat onto the dock and walk up to the parking lot.

Following the on-water run I was much more impressed with this boat’s handling capabilities than I anticipated looking at it on the floor at the show.

My new Sportsman’s Trails Crestliner will be ready for me when I get back from the annual spring Outdoor Writers of Ohio conference down at Atwood Lake State Park and lodge the week after next. I am ready to tackle the spring fishing including some Lake Erie perch fishing and the early close in walleye fishing. Now I am not going to even think about running twenty miles out on Erie in the late summer season but I am ready for them now.

If you are on the area lakes just look for the black and gray Crestliner Fishhawk with the ‘‘Sportsman’s Trails’’ name on the sides.'>


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