Michael Kirkpatrick

(Another boyhood remembrance of growing up at Point of Pines by Michael Kirkpatrick.)

We are boat people. There are few things more appealing and more optimistic than a good deal on a used fixer upper boat. Oh, the possibilities! Visions of summer days on the water with pretty girls, friends and family, soaking up the sun, and enjoying life.

At one point, my family got the bug for a houseboat. Many fine houseboats used to cruise the lake. They were perfect; they have a shallow draft, lots of room, big open decks on the top, and a fly bridge to pilot from the top. What FUN!

But we were looking for that low price fixer upper to have most of the fun at a fraction of the cost. A friend found just such a boat deal in Naples, Florida. He was a roofer and wanted the boat trailer for hauling materials.

The boat was a 23-foot tri-hull houseboat with a 105 Chrysler outboard. He said if we bought the boat and trailer for $900, he would tow it to Guntersville, let us have the boat, and he would take the trailer back. Oh my, what a deal!

When it showed up, we looked it over carefully. It was white fiberglass with a white Chrysler outboard with the top of the motor as square as a block. It had a short deck on the front with three bar stools bolted to the floor, a roof extended over it to make a porch. Inside it had a small head, an open galley with a small dinette and a couch on the left, steering wheel and captain’s chair on the right. The stern had a small covered porch with a chrome ladder that went topside to a big open deck.

The name on the stern was "SUM FUN," One word on each side of the outboard motor. We cleaned it up, stocked it with supplies, and cruised to many adventures. You could climb the ladder to the roof and jump off from about 10 feet, go for a day cruise, or a moonlit cruise, enjoy a sun downer, and camp out at anchor. It was not quite the glamorous life of the big houseboats, but it was fun.

Slowly our interest in the boat waned, then the motor died. So, it was tied to the side dock of the boathouse and left to the weather, because that was the easiest thing to do. The big rains of winter came and the battery running the bilge pump went dead, so she filled up with water and sank. Luckily the water was only 3 feet deep, so she sat on the bottom and looked pitiful for a while. We renamed her "SUNK FUN."

The next spring, an ambitious engineer wanted a boat project, so he offered a few hundred dollars to take it off our hands. We couldn’t say yes fast enough. The engineer worked and worked to get her seaworthy again.

One sunny summer day, I looked out on the lake to see an odd sight. There was the revitalized Sunk Fun up on plain pulling a lady skier! The boat’s bow was angled up in the air with only about 3 feet of the back of the hull in the water. Oh, they were having fun, the skiing houseboat!

I went over to check it out. The new owner had put a Suzuki 185 outboard on it. Now it would do about 40 mph.

I said to a friend, “There wasn’t anything wrong with that boat that a Suzuki 185 wouldn’t fix."

They used that boat all summer having the best of times.

In the fall, the boat was tied to a dock when that mean lady, Hurricane Opal, came rolling through Guntersville. It was still packing a major punch. Many trees and limbs were blown down and the lake was whipped into major whitecaps.

Sunk Fun went to the bottom again! The engineer, ever prepared, had a full coverage insurance policy on her. So, he called the insurance company and “told them where their boat was!”

The insurance company contracted with a local salvage company to raise the dead. I watched them show up with a center console work boat with 3 guys, scuba gear, lifting straps, an electric bilge pump, generator, and who knows what else.

The boat was only sunk in 4 feet of water, but this was a full price insurance salvage job, so they brought everything so they could charge full price.

Soon the boat was raised. The crew tied a tow rope to it and towed it off into the sunset. I paused to cherish the moment, because I thought to myself “This is the last time I will ever see Sunk Fun.”

I reflected on our good times, the not so good times, the sale, the renewal, and smiled.

A couple of weeks later I was reading The Advertiser-Gleam when a news headline caught my eye: The Burger Barge is open for business!

Sunk Fun was reborn yet again!

Charlotte Webb’s daddy, Mr. Webb, had purchased the boat at a salvage auction and went to work. He was an experienced restaurant man, now in retirement, looking for something to do. He had a new business plan, spend all summer wandering the lake, with two pretty teenage girls in bikinis as assistants, selling hamburgers, fries, boiled shrimp, and cold drinks! I told you he was smart! I don’t know if he made any profits, but what a job to look forward to everyday!

That business venture eventually played out, or maybe Mrs. Webb got a vote. Anyway, Sum Fun, Sunk Fun, and Burger Barge passed into Lake Guntersville history with lots of cherished memories and reflective smiles.

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