First boat fun and missteps

It's common for other boaters to turn around to talk to the Hurlins about their boat

The couple paid $800 and trailered the neglected boat home. Immediately upon arrival, Jake and Tara Hurlin drained the swampy water sitting in the boat, then moved on to a deep cleaning and brief motor inspection. Exhausted, they took their prize to the nearest boat launch. “We needed assurance that it would float,” Tara said.

It was a Craigslist find simply titled “boat 4 sale”. The Hurlins had scoured online ads religiously for about a year searching for the perfect fiberglass boat. After seeing several that were either far too expensive or large, they found this one.

“Normally I never click on titles like that, but as the summer passed, I got impatient,” Tara said. And with a click of the mouse, the 14-foot 1964 Renken Runabout featuring 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 someone had once loved it. The Renken sat under a shady, leafy canopy, uncovered and looking lonely. The gel coat was worn from the 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.

And so it did. But did it float?

The first time backing the trailer into the boat launch in their winter car, a lowered Subaru Forester, Tara discovered a 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, “Dollar signs suddenly danced, tauntingly, above my head.”

Fortunately, the boat did float, and they even ran it around the lake briefly, excitedly chatting about future upgrades and making a mental parts list. The most urgent upgrade was new 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’ll be fine, this boat is fine.’ Sure enough, 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 a new interior that matches the metallic green theme, and the addition of a rack that holds a rad pinstriped cooler sourced from a car part swap meet, the Hurlins 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 run the boat to islands and anchor to go explore, and sometimes they join other 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,” Hurlin says, “boating is just as much about the people and admiring the great outdoors as it is about enjoying the boat itself. It’s the perfect way to get a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.”

The Hurlins addressed another desire after backing the boat, white-knuckled, into the lake numerous times. “Using such a low 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 a Jeep, and what followed is yet another hobby interest: Overland and expedition, but that’s another story.

  • 1
  • /
  • 3
Read next Up next: Five racing-inspired automotive nose jobs