“A Modest Proposal To Extend Last Gasp.” By Bruce Bildsten


Extra gasp 2Thanks for all stopping by to our 5th Annual Virtual Holiday Party. It’s still warm out and Fellow Woody Boater Bruce Bildsten AKA “Rabbit” was sitting in an airport and wrote this down! Funny how time just waiting can be so empowering. Take it away Bruce.

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In case you hadn’t noticed, most of the country has been experiencing a heat wave this winter. That was after experiencing what may have well been the most glorious fall in the history of falls. You see, I live in Minneapolis and keep my little Gar Wood Ensign at our cabin seventy miles north and west, in the God’s Country that is Wisconsin.

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Rabbits Gar Wood earlier this summer

I can think of only a few weekends this fall, all the way to Thanksgiving, when I could’ve been boating if my boat wasn’t already “on the hard.” Here, in the land of ice fishing, there’s virtually no ice to be found. In fact, the last time we were at our cabin, just two weekends ago, two young women were waterskiing behind their Nautique, wearing only shorty wetsuits. And as I write this article I’m flying back from New York City where I hawked my company’s wool scarves, throws and blankets to people wearing shorts and flip flops, in record-breaking 65-degree weather. Insanity, that is.

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Built in 1939! Pure Woody heaven

So I’m now asking myself, “why do we wave the white flag so early every fall?” Think of it, Matt is already starting his countdown to Tavares when we could still be out there doing what we love so damn much: Living it instead of dreaming it.

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Yes, yes, I know all about cracked engine blocks. I’m only partly a fool. But some of us have a choice, those of us blessed to have a honest-to-goodness boathouse.

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My friend John Karlson and fellow BSLOLer has urged me to take some simple steps to dramatically extend my boating season since I first put my boat in the water five summers ago. You see, I just winterize my woody right in boathouse, where “Rabbit” lies for her long winter sleep. With an electric track system, our 1939-vintage boathouse, with cozy guest quarters above it, makes me feel lucky with a capital L.

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The Cabin in the woods

JFK, as John signs his emails to me, has always urged me to find a safe and reliable heater, leave one (easily removed) section of dock in, and just run her until that first layer of ice almost begins to set in. I could easily extend my season by a month or, in years like this, much more. I honestly could have boated on Thanksgiving for the last three years in a row.

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Minnesota smiles!

I already take advantage of the boathouse, come April or even late March, by closing the water chocks, hooking up the battery, giving it a careful going over, and backing her down the track to get a month or two of a jump start on most Wisota boaters. So why not stretch out the end of the season?I guess it’s just heredity and tradition. As you may have heard on “A Prairie Home Companion” we Minnesotan’s pride ourselves on being prepared for winter’s wrath. Here, where there’s one boat for every three people and a cabin seemingly in every other family bloodline, there’s this antiquated tradition still practiced by some of pulling out the docks on Labor Day Weekend, even when the temperatures are deep into the 90’s like they were this year. Absurd if not pathetic, that tradition, when September and October are without question the finest boating months of the year in our clime (as all who were at The Fete in Gull Lake this Fall can attest.)

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Love those blankets

So, with the Woody Boater community as my witness, and to finally appease JFK, I hereby vow to get that safe and reliable heater installed in the boathouse, maybe even add one of those low temp alarms like we have in the main cabin in case of a malfunction, and start enjoying the long season I so deeply deserve.

Go ahead talk me out of it.

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24 replies
  1. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    With a track system into the boathouse it’s a no-brainer.

    The rest of us could live vicariously through you as we have to pull boats and trailer them miles to store them in whatever means and location is available.

    I want to see a story of Rabbit out on the lake in January!

  2. Jack Schneiberg
    Jack Schneiberg says:

    I can’t quite qualify as a “Wisotan”, but the story is the same here in southeastern Wisconsin. I say go for it Rabbit. Maybe we could start a trend – even a contest: Who is the latest ON the water. Imagine scenes of woodies cruising along the shore against the barren branches. I’ll bet Jim Staib could come up with a way to install a heater in the front cockpit……..you never know what’s next – heated bottoms? Guess there’s always that “ice thing”.

  3. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    My only words of caution would be to invest is some good life jackets, such as the auto inflate kind that you can wear at ALL times when the water is cold (even on the dock) and also a water proof emergency transmitter so if you do get wet you can signal for help with something other than a drenched cell phone.

  4. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    I almost forgot, but a good supply of wool blankets and throws is essential as well, but you might already have those.

  5. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    I’ve thought of a heater, rather than winterizing, here in North Florida where we only get freezing nights once or twice a year, but what do you do when the power goes off which usually occurs when the weather is the coldest ?

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      Wilson, the answer is obvious. You winterize at 11:30 pm in freezing cold pitch black darkness. Ask me how I know!

      We also tend to have a lot of cold weather without power loss, and many of us have invested in backup generators and wood, natural gas, or propane heaters that do not require electricity to operate (or with battery backup).

    • JimF
      JimF says:

      We have similar temps to Wilson here in Texas but I leave boats in the slips all winter just in case there is a perfect day Like today is going to be 79! It is easy to just drain the engine when it looks like there might be a cold spell.

  6. Alex
    Alex says:

    There’s no debate on this Rabbit. Extend your season.

    Here in Hessel it’s a bit trickier. None of us have track systems with in-and-out boathouses. Our boathouses are not sealed. They’re the float in and lift for the season kind.

    Our best way to extend our boating season is to own a Boston Whaler.

    It’s a far cry from classic boating (unless it’s a classic Whaler). And even with a classic Whaler, it’s still a cry from classic wooden boating.

    But it does get one out on the water. And, to address a word of caution raised by m-fine, there’s way less risk of sinking in extremely dangerous 34 degree water because, well, Whaler’s don’t sink.

    My little 15″ Montauk is sitting in my driveway waiting for a combination of clear, calm, and warm (enough) weather in the coming days. Friday, Christmas Day, could be it with sunny 38 degree weather forecast.

    With a winter this unexpected, it’s good to do something unexpected. Something to make it last in ones’ memories. I want my kids to remember the time we went boating on and after Christmas.

    Keep on boatin’, Rabbit. Take a billion pictures.

  7. JFKarlson
    JFKarlson says:

    Rabbit, I’m happy to be cited as as an instigator in this plot. I’m just soooo jealous of your sweet boathouse. A (heatable) boathouse is a terrible thing to waste! JFK

  8. Mike K
    Mike K says:

    if you winterize with anti freeze, -100 rv stuff, instead of draining you can do your engine in a few minutes and its always ready to go.

    thats what all us sailboaters do when for winter.

    when i took the streblow to florida last march i put anti freeze in though the scupper before i returned to the frozen tundra of chicago.


  9. Steve Anderson
    Steve Anderson says:

    How about just getting an engine block heater that you can plug in like you do with the ole’ Kaiser? That seems much more efficient than heating the whole boat house, and it can be on a thermal plug so that it’s automatic. Throw on one of those heated blankets and you can say good bye to winterizing for good!

    By the way, I was out on Lake St Clair in Michigan yesterday. I have an old barge pontoon boat with an outboard, that I haven’t pulled yet. I was going to pull it yesterday, but the weather was so nice I figured I would get some more time on the water over the next couple weekends!

  10. Randy Rush Captain Grumpy
    Randy Rush Captain Grumpy says:

    What an wonderful spot. I wouldn’t change a thing.
    Just to be off track here, I just started a Facebook posting , ” would it be possible to not post anything negative on Facebook Christmas Day? I think it is and if you agree repost that thought on your own page.
    Merry Christmas everyone!

  11. Rabbit
    Rabbit says:

    Ooops: How could I have missed my wife in the photos? She’s sitting next to me in this photo and her best pal Jenny is in the back. And just for the record, my kids are the young man doing the Nixon impression and the young woman enjoying the lollipop (the rest are friends). They all love woody boating as much as I do.

  12. Bilge Rat
    Bilge Rat says:

    I don’t know how things are on your lake in Wisconsin, but on managed bodies of water here in NY State, water levels are typically lowered for winter. It always is amazing to me how areas that I boat in all the time with no problem suddenly have rocks showing when the levels are down. I try to remember these suddenly apparent hazards come boating season again. Be careful out there, not as many rescue options in the off season.

  13. Mike Thrower
    Mike Thrower says:

    Could you send some other photos of the boat house in these photos. I have one similar with a cradle and electric winch system. I am wanting to build something similar to what is in your photos in the same foot print since it is grandfathered in at our lake. Any interior photos would be awesome.

    Thanks Mike

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