When Paul Ezell turned 16, he started bugging his dad for his own transportation. But he didn't want to rev up and down the streets in a fancy car - he wanted to ride the waves in his own boat. His dad told him to get a job and pay for it himself. So he did, using money earned at Publix to buy his first of many boats.
For the past 40 years, Ezell has never tired of the thrill or relaxing pleasure of being out on the Chain of Lakes.
"I feel very blessed to even be on the water," he said.
But Ezell, who has been cruising the Chain of Lakes for a decade, has a caution for those looking to experience being out on the water on their own boat: "You gotta pay to play."
Owning a boat doesn't mean just having fun on the lakes. Buying a boat new can cost as much as a car, with prices rising with the size. And just like cars, boats need a lot of maintenance and care - likely more than most people realize.
Raymond Mercier, whose family owns Chain of Lakes Marine Storage Center on Lake May and does service and maintenance, points out that people in the market to buy a boat often don't realize that maintenance alone can differ significantly from cars - and the price can be harsh. Even the gas, he said, can be a problem. While cars easily burn fuel with added ethanol, using that same gasoline in a boat can ultimately burn you later.
"That's been causing a lot of problems in the marine industry because boats sit longer than cars," Mercier said.
When water forms in the tank and fuel lines become corroded, he notes, the repair bill can be shocking.
"Run your boats as regular as possible, put fuel additives in or buy non-ethanol fuel," he recommends.
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