Along about 2 p.m., when the water of the Chesapeake turned glass smooth and the sun was beating hard and hot, Dave Henderson took his measure of the day's success.
He peeked in the catchbox and counted 10 bluefish, with a couple hours fishing yet to go. Then he listened to the water lapping at the hull, which makes a sweet sound.
"Not bad," he said proudly, "for a $300 boat."
One would think it had gone the way of the dollar movie, but in these fast times changing values have created a new breed of $300 boat -- a breed better than the old breed.
These are days when some things are just plain out. People don't work with their hands anymore. Old wood boats are out because they are intensive in a labor that is known to almost no one.
Big power boats are out because they consume fuel with a vengeance, and slow boats are out because the world is tuned to speed.
So Dave Henderson bought himself a big, slow, heavy, old wooden boat -- a 32-foot Luhrs sea skiff of a certain age.
Actually he had to talk the seller up to $300. The boat, which had no name, belonged to a fellow who grew too old to use it. Henderson's brother had been a friend to the elderly man's grandson, and when one day Henderson admired the boat, the owner said, "Take her, she's yours."
Henderson dickered the fellow up to $500, but in the end he got talked back down to the final figure. Though the boat was a mess she was blessed with a freshly rebuilt 302 cubic inch V8 engine.
Henderson took on two partners, Dave Semler, who had owned boats before, and Joe Gilroy, a teen-age neighbor who had become Henderson's fishing and hunting partner.
And they went to work on the dilapidated hull. What they found they liked -- lapstrake mahogany, fastened with rivets and sound as a dollar used to be.
But leaks? She was a sieve.
They spent a year and a half doctoring the old boat up, sanding and scraping, caulking and painting, carpentering and varnishing. They worked weekends for months on end and jumped down to Deale, where they kept her, for short sessions in the evenings after work.
"It was a family affair," said Henderson. "We'd work on the boat all day and then our families would come down in the evenings. We'd have seafood at a restaurant on the Bay, or a cookout in the boatyard."
Henderson was the expert on motors, Semler the specialist on woodwork and Gilroy did as he was told.
Last August she was completed. They dropped her in the creek and watched carefully.
She leaked still, and still does. "About a teacup-full a week," said Henderson, smiling.
They used the boat some last fall, attempting with sparing success to figure out the complexities of fishing on the Bay.
In the spring the vessel was made whole when a name-painting specialist dropped by the yard and talked the owners into putting a title on their yacht. They thought for awhile about a name, and came up with a good one.
"Good Deale," it says on the transom.
The owners are now learning one of the saddest truths about wooden boats, which is that no matter how pretty they look and how well they respond this weekend, by next weekend they will need something done.
The Good Deale needs a good deal of sanding and painting at this moment, and the threesome of owners is now down to two, Gilroy having gone off to college.
She also has a problem with condensation in the gas tanks, and sputters whenever she's taken up to full throttle. That doesn't seem to bother Henderson, the motor man, who would just as soon run her slowly, save fuel and enjoy more hours on the Bay.
Which is exactly what he did last week, when he and Semler and Steve Boynton, a Washington lawyer, played hooky from work for a day and went on an excursion.
They fished for 10 hours, traveled 30 miles or more and used up 17 gallons of gasoline. On the ride home, with a gentle following breeze helping the boat along, Boynton took the controls on the flying bridge and steered a simple north course. He could see for miles and miles.
Gilroy, he said, had no time for the boat anymore. The youngster's one-third interest was up for sale and Boynton was pondering signing on.
The price has been buoyed, of course, by inflation and all the hours of work.
"I think it'll have to be up around $1,000," said Boynton. "What do you think of that?"
"Sounds to me," I told him, "like a good deal." CAPTION: Picture, It's a good old boat, and worth more than $300 now. By Angus Phillips.