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Familiarity has its benefits on the author's Mako 231

In the mid 1980s, I moved to the Jersey Shore for a job with The Fisherman magazine, and my bass boat wasn’t going to cut it anymore. As an outdoor writer, I had been invited on a number of junkets by the folks at Mako Marine, one of the leading builders of center consoles at the time, and I got to thrash various models on trips from Florida to the Bahamas. We had great times fishing and putting the boats through their paces, and to say I was impressed would be an understatement. I just had to have a Mako.

The author's Mako 231 is still the workhorse it was when he bought it 30 years ago, only prettier.

The author's Mako 231 is still the workhorse it was when he bought it 30 years ago, only prettier.

After the Miami boat show in 1989, I visited the Mako facility to discuss my desires with Brett Schwebke and his father, Bob, the company founder. Our conversation centered around the recently introduced 231, a 23-foot deep-vee with a 155-gallon fuel tank. I was young enough to be thinking about running a center console to Hudson Canyon, so the boat’s range was a bonus.

We shook hands, and a few weeks later my 231 arrived at New Jersey Mako dealer Northeast Sportfishing. It sported a 225 Yamaha and a dodger for cold-weather fishing. I filled it with the latest Lowrance electronics, including a Loran-based chart plotter and a venerable X-16 paper graph recorder, then painted Mako-to-Go on the sides. And did we go. I racked up 2,000 hours on that 2-stroke in just three years. I chased stripers day and night, bottom-fished on weekends, ran search-and-destroy missions for inshore bluefin tuna and, yes, made a handful of forays to Hudson Canyon until a botched forecast got me pummeled for eight hours on the run back. Twenty-three feet of fiberglass gets small awfully fast when the weather turns sour 90 miles offshore.

A lot of water has gone under the transom, and a lot of fish have come over the gunwales. My daughter grew up on the boat. It outlasted a marriage, and it’s still the workhorse it was when I bought it all those years ago, but prettier.

It has required a lot of care and repair to keep it together, not to mention the changes I’ve made along the way. The tall bow rail was first to go, replaced by low, split grab rails. I added a console arch for outriggers, rod holders, antennas and GPS receivers, and the teak trim gave way to black StarBoard. It’s had more engines than I can remember, several generations of electronics, two fuel tanks and a transom replacement. I’ve painted the hull twice, transitioning from off-white to Fighting Lady Yellow. It looks so different that I’ve had knowledgeable boat guys walk down the dock and ask, “Hey, what kind of boat is that?”

My typical season starts in early April and doesn’t end until at least Christmas. I’ve had to shovel snow out of the boat on more than one occasion to get out for late-season tautog.

I’ll admit there have been times I’ve lusted after a newer boat, but my 231 does pretty much everything I need her to do, doesn’t cost much to operate and has never failed to get me out and back — at times in conditions that had friends questioning my mental state. Familiarity has its benefits, and I know the boat’s every quirk, and how it will react in any sea. This spring she turned 30, and our love affair continues.

This article originally appeared in the Summer 2019 issue of Anglers Journal magazine.

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