Story and photography by Bill L. Olson
October 29, 2003 marked the 20th anniversary of my marriage to my wife Ann. Over the years on special days I had given her those “girlie things” like jewelry, clothes, furs and such. One Christmas, I gave her a new .25-06 Remington 700 BDL with a Leupold 3×9 scope plus some boxes of ammunition. I wrapped the ammo boxes individually to further increase the “present count.” After opening the individually wrapped rifle, gun case, and rifle sling, she eyed the rectangular shaped boxes that must have looked like they might hold jewelry. Well when she opened the first to see 20 rounds of bullets I got one of those “looks.” You can use your imagination to her response when she opened the second box to find 20 more rounds.
However this year’s anniversary gift was going to be something different and hopefully totally unexpected. After 20 years and knowing the woman I married there is history and a story.
As a country girl growing up in a ranching family in Colorado County Ann loved the outdoors. Through me, and my encouragement, she had fallen in love with coastal fishing. In fact she won or placed in several categories of a number of amateur women’s tournaments including the Redfish Rodeo that at the time was held in Rockport.
Ann had also become a partner with some former business associates of ours from our commercial real estate years. As the only female partner of SpawMaxwell Ann was in charge of the HR Department of a construction services company whose staff peaked at about 150 employees. This position not only had her interacting with her male counter-parts but also the female members of the SpawMaxwell Team.
These professional business-women had heard stories of Ann’s hunting and fishing exploits. They were intrigued when she would tell of one of our “road trips” to the High Country for me to preview a ranch for a client or to just briefly reclaim what was once a part of the Old Republic of Texas.
However, it was the fishing that most intrigued these women and Ann let me know of their interest. She contemplated how she could share more of these experiences with them. With an anniversary looming on the horizon, I had an idea.
The Olson family certainly didn’t need another boat. At that time we were running a newly refit 23 foot Robalo my Dad had bought new from Red Wing Boats in Houston. About 15 years after the original purchase I teamed up with Fred Lester of Red Wing to completely strip and refit the center-console. The modifications increased the versatility of this craft for both inshore and offshore use.
Now it was time for Ann to have her own boat – one she could operate, take family, friends and female business associates out to share her growing passion. I turned to another good friend and Palacios Texas based boat builder, TV Tran, owner of Tran Sports Boats.
It was going to be hard to surprise but I came up with a lame excuse that, “TV has some boats he wants to us to sea trial.” Ann was suspicious from the beginning. After running everything from the Baby Cat up to a 23’ Tran Cat we decided for Ann’s first boat the 18’ 10” model with a 115 hp Suzuki had the stability and performance that checked all of the boxes. This model was the forerunner to Tran’s SVT models available today that include the 1800, 2000, 2200 and 2400 SVT.
The hull color would have a burnt orange slurry to satisfy my University of Texas alumni wife. It was one of the first “colored hull” flats boats that became popular for a number of different universities alumni. Also incorporated into the design were electronics, leaning posts, upholstered cushions and other modifications.
For the five days of the Spring 2004 Houston Fishing Show Ann’s boat sat in Tran Sports Boats space. Needless to say she was one proud soon-to-be boat owner. While the boat was under construction she had a logo designed that resembled the University of Texas longhorn and had it affixed to the sides of the center-console while it sat at the Show. The logo was made up of a vertical spoon for the face with the hooks its ears, Bass Assasins were it horns and she named it “Hooked Up.”
At the close of the Fishing Show I hooked up to Ann’s boat while she supervised and we pulled it away from the George R. Brown Convention Center. A surprise anniversary present was delivered.
I can’t tell you the number of times I have pulled that boat down the highway and some Texas-ex would roll by flashing a “hook ‘em” horns sign. As a Baylor alum I’d look over to my beaming wife and say in a sarcastic-picking manner, “You know I don’t think that is very funny at all.”
Unfortunately Ann’s enjoyment was interrupted a few months later due to the beginning of her 20 month battle with glioblastoma multiform (primary brain cancer). However, we didn’t let cancer define us — instead we carried on and Ann enjoyed her boat for the time she had. To this day, Hooked Up is still a worthy and sentimental craft in the Olson fleet.
Time passes and man-made items need to be replaced, repaired and refit. The upgrade to Ann’s boat began about eight years ago with a new aluminum double axle McClain Trailer. Most recently McClain trailers did a complete inspection. For this round of refurbishment Britton McClain had his team inspect the electrical wiring from tongue to tail lights and replaced anything the salt environment had worn or weathered.
The fender skirts had lost some of their brilliance over time due to launching in saltwater and freshwater rises so McClain replaced them. As he said, “This is Ann’s boat and as part of the refit team I want to do something special in her memory and for her boat.”
McClain also replaced the dolly-jack with a double wheel version that makes moving the cat effortless. Also replaced was the winch and strap plus the boat was even more finely adjusted to the trailer. McClain obviously stocks trailer tires and with those on the ground being about eight years old all four along with the spare were replaced. The boat was ready to once again roll down the highway to a variety of destinations on the Texas coast.
When it came time to refurbish the Tran Cat there was only one place to go and that was where the boat was originally built. At the 2020 Houston Fishing Show I talked to Donny and Frank Tran, TV’s sons that now oversee day-to-day operations of the family business. They would be responsible for removing the 14 years of gentle wear plus needed replacements.
The hull and all compartments were power-washed and hatch seals replaced. Inspection of the deck revealed no blemishes and was followed with the entire hull being buffed and polished. All upholstery on the leaning post as well as cooler tops was replaced plus a second upholstered cooler was added for under the leaning post.
All instruments and gauges were check and a new flush mounted compass was installed on top of the console. Yes the Lowrance GPS and Chart recorder is reliable but being “old school” it is nice to have a compass to glance at to maintain a heading or as a back-up if needed.
I discussed with the Tran brain-trust about replacing the 115 Suzuki with a new 150 model. Unfortunately Covid interrupted parts availability so that part of the plan is still on the books for replacement in the future. However, regular maintenance and care still has the 115 as a reliable power source.
Given the short supply of available motors and parts to complete a boat build, refitting a worthy craft is a great and very affordable option. With the uncertainties of post-Covid a new boat could be at least a year or more out for delivery.
Setting aside the sentimental attachment this 19’ Tran Cat has been a part of countless memories while Ann, our son Billy and I have certainly learned its limits as well as our own while at the helm. A boat is a tool and being so familiar with its capabilities instills confidence so long as those parameters are respected.
Buying a new boat is special. Refitting a special boat helps retain a treasured part of one’s life. See if you don’t have a worthy vessel to make “Like New.”
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