• Member Spotlight, Sunrise to Sunset with Underdog88

    with Mark Underwood

    Our member Underdog88, Mark Underwood, has achieved amazing results without spending amazing sums. Not only has he turned heads with what he has accomplished with his boat, but the extremely interesting (and strictly budgeted) way he has done this reminds all of us what can be attained when someone with smarts, a strong desire, and intense drive puts their mind to it. This first story has been a pleasure to work on with Mark and Becky, and certainly deserves to be the leader of our Member Spotlights. Congratulations to Mark and Becky for being the first in this section of our Inside Magazine!! Sit back and enjoy…..

    Serious: Tell us a little history how you became involved with boating.
    Mark: Like most boaters, as a child, we spent a lot of time on boats with my parents. My older sister moved to Florida at age 19 and bought a 22 foot sailboat and lived on it. Over the years she worked her way up to a 52 foot Chris Craft in the front row at Marina Jacks in Sarasota, still my favorite place on earth.

    My brother has been a sailor for over 40 years now and also has a Whaler fish boat. While I enjoyed sail boats and fish boats, I needed speed.

    Serious: So that’s when you started messing with high performance boats?
    Mark: Not exactly, about the only thing which played a bigger part of my childhood was racing. Any and all kinds of racing. My mother took me to the first Grand National (now NASCAR) race at Michigan International in ’69 and we also went to Talladega. She moved to Florida and started flying us down for both Daytona races every year through the seventies. After High School, marriage to my HS sweetheart, and a tour with the US Navy we came home to raise kids while I thought about how to go racing. I figured out the most affordable way to go racing, and go fast, was on motorcycles. In the 80s I began a 20 year stint of motorcycle drag racing eventually winding up as a factory rider for Yamaha Motors where we won 2 AMA National Championships.

    Serious: That doesn’t sound like it leaves a lot of time for performance boating?
    Mark: Well, not exactly, at that same time we were also running a dragster program with my 16yr old daughter driving the Alltel sponsored Super Comp dragster in NHRA and IHRA. She was running 170mph in the 8 second zone. These were all consuming efforts which left me very proud but exhausted. The stress and anxiety required running two programs at that level and fulfill sponsorship commitments was overwhelming. I was also working as a full time firefighter and running a motorcycle shop.

    Serious: So when did you find the time to start this boating thing with a schedule like that?
    Mark: Well, I actually bought our first boat in 02 as an escape from that while we were still racing. When I finally quit racing in 04 and my daughter went to college I took a much needed breather from all that and was out on the boats several times a week.

    Serious: What was that first boat, and were there any more before your current one?
    Mark: I first bought a bow rider with a 90hp Merc. We had a ball with that boat and dragged it to 11 different lakes and rivers in Ohio our first season. I sometimes think we should have kept that boat. It was a simpler boating life back then but I’m just never satisfied…

    But, being a life-long motorhead, hearing a few boats roar by with V8 power ruined me. I had to have more power. I bought a 23 foot Chris Craft Scorpion with a small block Chevy. Most importantly it had thru hull exhaust. We kept the bow rider and I did a bunch of work to the Chris to update her looks.

    We took the Scorpion back north to Fairport Harbor where we bought her and did our first Poker Run with the Mentor group. I was worried about being outclassed and too slow to hang. Running with the big Cigs and Fountains had me intimidated but those people treated us like we had a six figure boat. What a great bunch of new friends we made that weekend. But… that fueled the fire again. Need more power… need twins…
    I spent too much time on the internet during the winter researching and dreaming. We wanted big and fast but needed to trailer. I bought a diesel dually first. I always had my heart set on a 38 Scarab but couldn’t get it in and out of my neighborhood/back yard.

    The Velocity was a perfect compromise as we could go faster with less power and still spend a weekend on the boat pretty comfortably. This boat just spoke to my wife and I and tugged at us hard. So, that winter we bought the Velocity with intentions of working our way into OPA P-5. At that time OPA was a bit smaller and easier/cheaper to get involved with. The boat fit the class perfectly being the largest allowed and twins were legal (then). I was going to get my daughter to wheel and me on the sticks.

    By the time we got the boat close to being competitive the rules changed kicking us out of the 75mph bracket into the 85mph class. Costs went up and gasoline prices doubled. Rules and required equipment also increased. I had the boat, truck, motor home and enclosed trailer but no money left to race it. 10 years earlier in life I would have made it happen. Now almost 50 and retired from the Fire Service, (read loss of half my income) I think it would kill me trying it on my own again.

    Serious: Tell us a little more of your history with the Velocity.
    Mark: Becky and I bought the Velocity in December of 2005 from Shogren’s in Chicago. It was 9 degrees that morning so a water test was out of the question.
    Just a Little Cold!

    I cannot imagine doing that in the middle of the winter in the Midwest, Florida maybe. I’m assuming you didn’t have to fight the crowds to get the boat home. Did you get a chance to test it at all?
    Mark: They had the boat inside and we ran it on the hoses. That was really all we could do.

    Serious: Did you have any reservations about the boat since you didn’t have the opportunity to test it?
    Mark: I wasn’t crazy about the condition of the labbed props installed on the boat so they told me to run it and let them know what pitch I wanted and they would send me a new set which they did. What more can you ask for? Shogren’s were a pleasure to deal with and made the whole process easy. I would buy from them again.

    Serious: How soon did you get an opportunity to test the boat?
    Mark: Buying a boat in the winter in Ohio was torture. We got a 60 degree day January 12th so we headed to the Ohio River for our first water test. Couldn’t wait until spring… She ran well and everything worked. The boat ran in the low 70s which was 15-20mph faster than my last boat. I winterized the boat several times that winter. We took it to Lake Norman the first of March because it was warm there and had a great trip.

    When did you get the chance to run in your native waters?
    Mark: Friday the 13th in April was our first trip to one of our local lakes. A bass boat ran me down so I thought I’d give him a race. Pick your battles… Started closing in and BOOM!
    Oops, *&%$*#(@@%*

    Serious: So, are you saying picking a bass boat was the wrong thing to do? Or are you saying picking a race on Friday the 13th was the wrong thing to do? 
    Mark: Maybe both! But, this summer on the same lake another bass boat was running up on me and I shoved the sticks and smoked him. I was happy to see him give up because I was getting butterflies in my stomach and having flashbacks. It wasn’t the 13th at least.

    Serious: So, puking an engine made you decide to improve the entire boat?
    Mark: Well, so it began… Over the years I have always had something I either wanted or needed to fix or improve on the boat. I became a “DIY” guy out of necessity. I’ve always had more ambition than my wallet.
    LOTO Shootout 2011 NV2M2 class winner 84mph

    So, what are the current specs on the Velocity?
    Mark: 1989 Regal Velocity 30’
    28 Bravo props on IMCO -2 Shorty’s
    IMCO Hydraulic external steering
    SS Competition Gages
    EMI Thunder Exhaust
    Aluminum Heads
    454s, .030 over with all the wrong parts but running great.
    80mph with a load while keeping at or under 5000 rpm.
    Best of 84.7mph gps so far at 52-5300.
    I have a set of bigger carbs waiting to test.

    Our members have enjoyed reading about your projects, what are some of the things you’ve accomplished that you are most proud of?
    Mark: I’ve done a lot to this boat, some things more than once. I’m not saying things I’ve done are right or the best way, just my way.
    The boat is always a work in progress. Aren’t they all? Since buying the boat I’ve rebuilt the motors a couple times, redid the entire dash and cockpit, designed and built my own trim indicators and built a custom hatch after needing 5 guys to remove and install my old heavy wooden one too many times. Last year I re-gel coated the bottom and rebuilt the trailer. Every project could be a story in itself as problems and complications always arise. When you’re a DIY guy you do what you can with what you have.
    I’m most proud of my Trim-Sticks because other people love them. I’ve sold a dozen sets or more without even trying and guys are happy with them. I put a page on my boating site showing how a guy can convert his existing Kiekhaefer gage. I’ve since made new cable holders for those who don’t already have one and now install tiny LED lights in each acrylic stick.
    This was a couple years ago when re-doing the cockpit and dash. We got a lot of funny looks but it was warm and cozy.

    Almost everything I’ve done to the boat has been a compromise between what I wanted and what I could afford. I research everything, take advice from experienced people then do it my way for better or worse. Many of the things will make the experienced cringe and the well funded boaters ask why.

    Serious: Is there anything you would have done differently in hindsight, or do you feel you’ve learned something positive from each and every endeavor?
    Mark: Kept the bow rider and a lot of cash! No, not really as this boat has brought us many great times and taken us to (and back!) many great locations and events. The friends we have met over the years and the sunsets we’ve watched over her bow are priceless.

    Serious: Obviously you’ve had some tremendous support from your other half. How does she help you with these projects and the workload involved?
    Mark: After 20 years of drag racing motorcycles with the same approach, she is kind of used to it. She takes care of me. She loves the water as well and tolerates my obsessive behavior. We’ve had this boat 7 years. Longer than anything else except my wonderful wife of 30. I want to keep her but have been thinking about a different boat now that I’ve retired from the Fire Service. I want to finish up a couple small projects and fix a nagging oil leak this winter then she may be up for sale. The boat…… not the wife.

    We have since had the boat from Lake Erie to the Keys and NY City to LOTO and many great places in between. The 50 mile run down the Hudson River out of the wilderness and into the city was impressive.

    The Keys, well what can you say but I want to go again. It’s impossible to choose a favorite but the manatee family spending the morning with us in Biscayne Bay was incredible.

    Mark: The story is supposed to be about our ride but, it seems to be more about us. I guess that’s really what boating is like though. It’s not really about the boat at all but the people and places it takes you. Friendships and memories made last a lot longer than the boats anyway. You can see my 15yr old lab on the hatch at sunset. She’s always with us, sunrise to sunset and beyond.

    We are proud to have Mark and Becky as the very first in the Member Spotlight section of the Inside Magazine. This is a learning experience for us, and we hope you enjoy this feature. We have several more in the works, and maybe all of you will consider joining us with stories of your rides and experiences one of these days. Until next time!