The Making of an Enthusiast
I grew up knowing very little about cars, other than they were fun to get sideways. The real freedom, it seemed to me, was on the water.
Growing up I was never really a car enthusiast, although I did enjoy ripping e-brakes and generally driving like a hooligan as a teen. But you already knew that. My family did have (almost) only manual transmission cars, including several Chrysler minivans, Dodge Dart wagons, and a '64 Scout; so I had that going for me (which is nice). But I always had a thing for the floating kind of mechanized transportation, due in part to the fact that in New Hampshire I could pilot my own vessel up to 25hp at any age, so long as my parents allowed me, or sometimes even if they didn't.
That's right, I could, at age 10, drive a 13' Boston Whaler with a 25hp outboard capable of a hair-straightening 30mph top speed, with as many girls as I could corral (none) anywhere I wanted to go on my 7,000 acre lake. Mostly I drove around with one of my guy friends and tried to jump wakes. But it certainly instilled a love for fast motorized things, and since none of our boats were ever nice, I was forced to learn to fix them as well.
My father proudly holding his 17' cedar strip canoe, 52 pounds (that's very light)
My father had run a wooden boat repair shop before my sister and I came along; he even built some beautiful cedar-strip canoes, one of which we still have and still use regularly. One year he and I undertook a major overhaul of a classic Lyman outboard that I had started using at about age 11 in its unrestored state. While Lyman boats were made as large as 50 feet, this was just a 10 footer with a 15hp Evinrude. It got me around just fine, since I only weighed about 80lbs even in high school. In the end, I learned a tremendous amount in the restoration process, and I haven't yet stopped "messing about with boats."
A boat that spent the first 70 years of its life white... became red... and now blue
The finished product
When I had a chance to manage a marina business after college, I jumped on it, and stayed there for eight years - this was my first real job out of college, mind you. I learned a huge amount about boats and the whole industry, naturally, but at the same time I realized I could tinker with my car, too. I sold my Honda (the third Honda in a row going back to high school) and bought an old-ish BMW wagon, of course with a manual transmission. I worked on that car in the marina shop lots of late nights, and I was totally hooked: both on the car, and the feeling of fixing and improving it on my own. A highlight in the life of that car was taking it on a closed course at Team O'Neil Rally School - a story for another time.
What unlikely things do the forklift and BMW have in common? Straight-six power and manual gearbox.
So in a strange, circular way, it was a childhood spent tinkering with boats that led me into my automotive enthusiasm, and which landed me here starting a boat-related "tribe" on an automotive website.
I'll try to tell some interesting boat-related stories, maybe some industry-related stuff that I think would be relevant, and I'm looking forward to what others have to share about their overlapping enthusiasm between the landlocked motor vehicle and the floating variety.