Search for Toy Boat 2 - sunset offshoreFifteen years ago, I bought “Toy Boat 2”. It started as an experiment in pushing the limits of what could be done to make a small boat a viable offshore fishing platform. Was it possible? What compromises would need to be made? How did new technologies impact all of this?

I’m an engineer by training, and I’ve always been a tinkerer and technology geek, so the challenge of trying to make a small boat fish like a big boat was something I just couldn’t pass up.

Now, after a decade and a half of “messing about in boats” (see “Wind in the Willows” by Kenneth Grahame), TB2 has become more of a labor of love than an experiment. Every hole I drill or patch, every piece of equipment I replace, comes with a story. Sometimes it’s a story of success, sometimes it’s a story of failure. Most times, there’s a good fishing tale and some important lessons buried in there as well.

This post is an introduction to TB2, and what went into finding her.  We’ll be following up with posts on where we are now. It’s interesting to see what worked and what didn’t.

But first…

Search for Toy Boat 2 - San Martin skiff fishermen capturing the spirit

After the storm – San Martin skiff Fishermen

What was I thinking??

I’ve always loved fishing offshore, but I’ve never been content to just ride along on someone else’s boat. To me, half the fun of offshore fishing is putting together a plan and finding the fish, not just hooking them and bringing them in.

But owning a “real” offshore boat was not in the cards for me. When I bought TB2, I had finally reached a point in my life where I could afford a larger, offshore-capable boat. But other things (like twin boys!) caused me to re-think where my money was going.

I also didn’t want the hassle of operating a large boat. Keeping a slip, bottom maintenance, and being shackled to a home port were all big negatives. Plus, I have been known to fish fresh water occasionally, and having to keep a second boat or using a rental just didn’t appeal to me.

For years I’d been fascinated with the idea of fishing offshore from a small boat. It started when I read “The Old Man and the Sea”, Ernest Hemingway’s classic tale of a Cuban dory fisherman and his fish of a lifetime. The fascination grew when I read about Lee Wulff’s battles with giant bluefin tuna from a skiff off Nova Scotia in the 70s. And when Salt Water Sportsman printed articles in the 80s about Hawaiian fishermen battling large tuna and billfish off the Kona coast from trailer boats, I really got the bug.

Finally, around mid-2000, I decided to put together an “ocean skiff” – an open fishing boat capable of fishing most of the places I wanted to go offshore, which could be pulled on a trailer, kept in the garage, and used for the occasional freshwater trip.

While seaworthiness is always a big concern, my biggest fears had always been about navigation, motor reliability, and being able to call for help if needed. But a number of things, new in the early 2000’s, made it seem likely that my concerns could be easily (although maybe not cheaply!) addressed:

  • Inexpensive GPS units
  • Affordable satellite distress beacons
  • The evolution of marine towing services like Vessel Assist and Sea Tow
  • Improved outboard motor reliability

After carefully considering the above, I decided to give it a go – and Project Toy Boat 2 had begun.