Rebuilt for Speed

“We can get it to go so much faster. Don’t forget, speed is your friend.”
Doug Lowey landed and released this false albacore outside Fort Pond Bay on Sunday morning on a Deadly Dick tin. David Kuperschmid

It’s been almost two months since I last filled my boat up with diesel fuel. I hold about 85 gallons in each of two tanks below deck, and given the high price of fuel this year, I’ve consciously slowed down my cruising speed when heading out for a day of fishing or lobstering. The other day, I finally filled up with 131 gallons, and at $4.30 a gallon, my wallet is significantly lighter.

My Nova Scotia-built craft is bulky and heavy, and is powered by a 370-horsepower Yanmar engine. It’s no high-powered speedboat. It’s a commercial craft — practical, not fancy — designed to tackle deep ocean swells and lug lobster traps. It has a head, but I have not used it in years. 

In the past, I would normally cruise at about 15 knots. But I’ve noticed I burn much less fuel when I throttle down to 13 knots. A two-knot difference does not sound like much, but my rudimentary math skills have shown that I’m burning about 15 percent less fuel. Given that it now probably takes about five minutes more to reach my favorite fishing ground, I think it’s a pretty good trade-off.

My cousin Paul out in Indianapolis has a totally different viewpoint on this matter. He is a speed demon and a genius with engines. He also wants to come for a visit to make my boat faster. Much faster. 

Let me explain.

You see, my cousin was involved with professional Indy car racing for over four decades, starting as a mechanic before forming his own team and racecars under his initials, PDM Racing. 

He lives only a few miles from the famed Indianapolis Speedway where the Indy 500 race is held every Memorial Day weekend. Paul has worked directly with famous drivers of the likes of Tom Sneva, Emerson Fittipaldi, Bobby Rahal, Tony Bettenhausen, Sam Hornish, and many other giants of the sport. He even held his wedding reception in the Pennzoil suite at the Indy Speedway. We’re talking hard core here.

No doubt about it, Paul lives and breathes the lure and appeal of a highly engineered machine that travels over 230 miles an hour on an oval course. He is the original rocket man.

I’m not sure about his plans for my boat though. Sure, I’d love to go at a higher speed. But at what cost? And just how fast are we talking here?

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I have no aptitude for anything mechanical or technical. None. On my best day, I may be lucky enough to change a busted windshield wiper on my car. It’s really embarrassing, but I freely acknowledge my shortcomings. For obvious reasons, some of my best friends are mechanics.

My cousin plans to visit in a couple of weeks. In a few email exchanges, he was serious and convinced that he could get my boat to Indy-car speed. I’m a bit concerned.

“Your boat goes too slow,” he recently wrote, without ever having stepped foot on it. “We can get it to go so much faster. Don’t forget, speed is your friend.” Speed is your friend? Try explaining that to a stern-faced New York State trooper the next time you get pulled over.

I have a hard time seeing a Saturn V rocket booster secured to the top of my main cabin, but I’ll listen to what he may suggest. Perhaps he’ll bring along Mario Andretti, who, by the way, did a fair amount of racing at the old track in Bridgehampton, where my cousin hung out a lot. Frankly, buying a new boat could be the easy answer in my view. But I doubt he’d go for that.

In the meantime, I will continue to chug along at lawn tractor speed. I’m afraid my days of speed are behind me. I long ago lost the hair that I might feel the wind blow through. And I’m not certain I’m ready to install seatbelts and wear goggles and a helmet when I go on my boat.

However, I really look forward to my cousin’s visit, and I do hope he follows the speed limit when he drives out here.

Speaking of fast, the explosive-swimming false albacore have finally arrived in large schools off Montauk and other locales to the delight, and relief, of many anglers.

“They showed up in big numbers late last week and the action has been great,” said Capt. David Blinken of North Flats Guiding out of East Hampton. “It should continue for a while as there is a lot of bait around.”

The old salt Harvey Bennett, owner of the Tackle Shop in Amagansett, agrees. “The fall run is on,” he exclaimed. “False albacore are just about everywhere you look and there are lots of striped bass in the 24-to-26-inch range showing up in the ocean wash with a few bluefish. Some keeper bass are around and the action should get even better. And don’t forget that porgies are still thick and big in the bays, and blowfish and snappers can still be had, too.”

Bennett, who is also an avid Indy racecar fan, is in agreement with my cousin that fast is better than slow when you own a boat. “Listen to your cousin,” Bennett said. “He knows what he’s talking about.” 

“Albies, albies, and albies,” repeated Sebastian Gorgone of Mrs. Sam’s Bait and Tackle Shop in East Hampton, about the schools of the fish that showed up in local waters and around Montauk Point. “They’ve come on thick and it’s great to see.” Gorgone was equally enthused about striped bass on the sandy ocean beaches. “A decent number of keepers are being landed.” 

For those fluke fanatics out there, Sunday will be your last lick to retain the tasty flatfish, as the recreational season comes to an end.

“We haven’t had the best of conditions in September, but there were some nice big fish taken,” said Kathy Vegessi, the shoreside support mate of the open boat Lazybones out of Montauk. As proof, Vegessi showed her expertise last week when she landed an eight-pound fish. The apple did not fall far from the tree as her daughter, Rebecca, reeled in a similar size flattie on the same trip. Fluke will no doubt breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that the Vegessi women have stowed their rods away until next year following the upcoming closure.

On Monday, the Bones will commence its twice-daily trips diamond jigging for stripers and blues at 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. The Bruno-hulled boat does a steady 12 knots when under power. My kind of speed.

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