By Tara Hurlin
Life works in mysterious ways; one thing leads you to another, and when you remember to step back and reflect on how far you’ve made it, you realize you are building a story of your very own. Life as an automotive hobbyist works in a similar way; a stock car can lead to a hot rod, the hot rod can lead to a sport truck, the sport truck to a lifted rig, and then since you have a vehicle with towing capabilities, why not start on a track car or a boat?
Tara and Jake Hurlin have been heavily involved in the hobby of 1950s-60s hot rods and customs, but with living in beautiful Northern Michigan only a mile from a boat launch on Long Lake, the couple realized they had a strong itch to scratch, and it wasn’t from swimmer’s itch.
“I love the fins of the early Cadillacs, and I really wanted to find a boat that resembled the same era of my 1961 Cadillac Series 62,” Tara said. The Hurlin’s scoured online ads religiously for about a year waiting for the perfect fiberglass boat to come their way. After viewing several that were either too far gone for their budget or far too large, Tara fell upon an ad on Craiglist that was simply titled “boat 4 sale”.
“Normally I never click on titles like that, but as the summer passed, I was getting impatient,” Tara said. And with a click of the mouse, the 14-foot 1964 Renken runabout with a metallic-flake green hull and classy, swoopy fin-like stern popped up on the screen. “I was immediately obsessed,” Tara said, “I had to have it.” An added bonus was that it was only a couple miles away from home.
Upon inspection, the boat had seen better days, but it was once loved by a previous owner. It was sitting under trees, uncovered and looking lonely. The gel coat was worn from weather, the windshield foggy and scratched, and the entire boat needed a good cleaning and wax. We grabbed a bucket of water to test the motor, and it started right up on the first attempt. “There was just something about this boat, there was no question in our minds that it was coming home,” Tara said.
The couple paid $800 and took the boat home on its trailer. Immediately after arriving home, Jake and Tara drained the swampy water that had been sitting in the boat, then moved on to a deep cleaning and a brief check of the motor. Once the couple exhausted themselves, they took their prized find to the nearest boat launch. “We needed re-assurance that it would float,” Tara said.
While backing the trailer into the boat launch for the first time in their winter driving car, a lowered Subaru Forester, Tara discovered the first major issue. “In order to get the boat far enough off the launch, the entire rear of the car had to go into the water, and the exhaust pipe was completely submerged,” she explained, “I suddenly started dollar signs floating tauntingly above my head.”
Fortunately, the boat floated, and they even took it for a quick run around the lake, excitedly chatting about future upgrades and making a mental parts list. The most urgent upgrade was the seats. “It has cheap box store seats that caused tailbones to collide with bolts through the cushions,” Tara said, “that was a painful discovery.”
Other upgrades included a glove box, new speedometer, a metallic green flake steering wheel and re-wiring all of the lights. Emergency items were also added. “I asked Jake if we should purchase oars in case we became stranded, and he said ‘Oh no, we will be fine, this boat is fine.’ Low and behold, during that same week we were out on the boat making several rounds around the lake when it sputtered to a stop; the motor took up more gas than anticipated.” Tara was able to lift the gas tank to feed the motor just enough juice to start back up and make it to the boat launch. Soon after, the boat was equipped with oars, emergency lights, a fire extinguisher and a foghorn.
With new interior that matches the metallic green theme, and the addition of a rack that holds a rad pinstriped cooler that Jake sourced from a car part swap meet, the Hurlin’s have been enjoying the boat as-is. “There are always huge smiles on our faces as soon as we launch the boat, and our smiles get bigger as wind and water whip our faces,” Tara said. They take the boat to islands on the lake and anchor to go explore, and sometimes they join groups of boats anchored on the sand bars. “It’s really common for a boater to pass by us, then turn around to talk to us about our boat,” Tara said, “boating is just as much about the people and admiring the great outdoors as it is enjoying the boat itself; it’s the perfect way to get a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.”
After backing the boat into the boat launch white-knuckled numerous times, Tara and Jake felt another dull, persistent itch. “Using that low of a car on a slippery boat launch made me uneasy,” Tara said, “And we had been discussing getting a vehicle that could tow our modified Mazdaspeed MX-5 to race tracks. The boat gave us yet another excuse to trade in the lowered Forester for something to better fit our needs.”
In came the Jeep, and what followed is yet another hobby interest: overland and expedition, but that’s another story.