For a list of boat buying and maintenance resources in the St. Croix Valley, click here.
Quality of life is an ongoing theme for both lifelong and recent residents of the St. Croix Valley. People choose to live in and around this area for a variety of reasons, chief among them typically include access to many recreational opportunities and the river valley’s exceptional beauty. As we approach our warmer months, boats will appear on the St. Croix River like a seasonal bloom that is joyfully anticipated by so many outdoor enthusiasts.
For those who’ve looked out over the water and longed to a part of that summertime fleet or have wondered if boat ownership makes sense for you, we spent some time with two families to discover what drew them to boating.
Woodbury mayor Anne Burt and her husband Jeff have been boating on the St. Croix River ever since moving to Minnesota 15 years ago. “Jeff first started boating with his family when he was in high school. I first started boating and water skiing in college. I was hooked,” Anne Burt says. Each purchased their first boat at the beginning of their careers, Anne on the East Coast, Jeff on the West Coast. Once married and living in the Chicago area, the couple purchased their first boat together and enjoyed boating almost every summer weekend on the Illinois River, Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. “Upon being relocated to the Twin Cities, we specifically chose to live on the east side of the metro because of the St. Croix River,” Burt says. “Living in Woodbury is a perfect location to access the river. It’s only seven miles down a beautiful country road into Afton and we are at our marina.”
The Burts wanted a boat that would work for their family, roomy enough to hold the kids and their kids’ friends, powerful enough to pull tubers, water skiers and wake boarders. “This boat has an open bow and can hold a dozen people comfortably or just our family of five,” Burt says.
Aimee Topp has been boating her entire life. “In fact, I’m a third generation boater,” she says. “My grandfather had a boat and my father grew up on the St. Croix River with his family. My sister and I both now have boats and we hope our children will also carry on the tradition.”
Topp started off with a 28-foot Cobalt open bow boat. “Despite having spent a lot of time on my parent’s boat, my husband was new to boating. So before we moved to a cabin style boat, we wanted to ensure we loved it and were ready to take on more,” Topp says. They would later step up to, “what we think is a perfect boat for our family, one that can accommodate us to sleep over.”
In order to get the most out of your investment in a boat, it seems appropriate to use it as much as possible. The Burts gave up golfing when they bought a boat because those competing seasonal activities each take a significant amount of time. Instead, the Burts boat on the St. Croix River every weekend, weather permitting, from April through October. “One of the advantages of the St. Croix River is that it connects to the Mississippi River and we could go all the way to the Gulf of Mexico if we wanted to,” Burt says. “But we usually stay between Stillwater, Minn. and Prescott, Wis. with at least one annual getaway to Treasure Island Resort, Redwing, Lake City, Wabasha or Lake Pepin for a festival, concert or local event.” But they will often just cruise locally, dock someplace and head into one of the many inviting river valley towns for food and beverages or, “we are happy to throw an anchor and just float and swim … It’s also been a joy to teach our kids and their friends to water ski and wake-board,” Burt says.
One of the Burts' favorite boating excursions is to make a “shrimp run down to Point St. Croix Marina in Prescott, Wis. where there are primarily only two things on the menu: grilled shrimp and Heggies Pizza, along with a cooler filled with beer and pop choices,” she says.
Both families look forward to spending July 4th boating on the St. Croix River. “We connect with other boaters, tie the boats together in Hudson Bay, swim, eat, goof off, etc. and then watch the fireworks,” Burt says.
“We really love 4th of July on the river. Being on the river at night, you can see fireworks on both the Minn. and Wis. sides for miles and miles. It’s a really unique experience,” Topp says.
Burt and Topp agree that although boat ownership requires some maintenance, it is relatively minimal compared to cabin ownership and is more convenient for their busy lifestyles. “There is no yard, no plowing, no trees to trim, etc.,” says Topp. “We find we get more time on the boat to enjoy it because no real chores need to be done.” Also, Topp finds that living so close to the river provides the opportunity to use their boat around their kids’ scheduled activities. “If there is a weekend tournament or a dance competition for our kids, we can still get out on the boat around their schedules. It’s flexible and easy,” Topp says.
Burt concurs, saying, “With the active lifestyle of our family, we love the fact that we’re only a few minutes away from boating. We knew that a cabin lifestyle would not fit our family due to the various activities and commitments the kids had and that being close to home while being able to enjoy life on the water was the best combination for us. It’s easy to pack up food and drink for the day and be on the boat.”
As for the maintenance piece, Topp says the amount can be situational, like a yard. “What you put in is what you get out,” she says. “Some boaters don’t put a lot of time into their boats and that works for them. Others spend hours putzing around cleaning and always doing projects.”
Burt notes that prospective boat owners should also invest in learning how to drive a boat along with learning the laws and rules of the waterways. “Some basic education is helpful to have a safe and enjoyable experience,” she says.
For regular boat maintenance, Burt recommends checking out the many marinas and boat mechanics all over the valley. “One of the biggest differences between boating in the north versus other parts of the country is that the boats have to be winterized and stored during the colder months,” Burt says. This usually requires shrink-wrapping the entire boat, unless you have access to indoor storage. The ritual makes spring a favorite time of year for many boat owners. “We are always giddy when it warms up enough to remove the shrink-wrap and launch the boat for another summer of fun.”