A phone call to Steve “Beaver” Edwards at Jerry’s Sports Service in Beloit last Thursday confirmed my worst nightmare: After 32 years on the Evinrude motor pro staff, I was being kicked off the team.

This dealership, which has been selling one of America’s favorite outboards from their showroom on Riverside Drive since 1974, is still open for business. Edwards says he still carries me on the Lund boat pro staff. But Evinrude motors, a subsidiary of Bombardier Recreational Products, no longer exists effective immediately.

Edwards said Evinrude motors already purchased are still covered by warranty, but cautioned that if the company declares bankruptcy, warranty coverage will no longer be in effect.

“We faced a similar situation when Outboard Marine Corp. (OMC) declared bankruptcy in 2000,” Edwards said. “BRP bought the company and offered an even better warranty than OMC, with some motors covered for 10 years. The longevity of a warranty remaining in effect is doubtful. Those who have Evinrudes with shorter warranty periods could possibly still have coverage. But if BRP can find a way to declare bankruptcy separate from the corporation’s other recreational product lines, all bets are off.”

Edwards said he has about 30 new Evinrudes sitting on his lot, from six- to 300-horsepower. Retail price of a 300-horsepower Evinrude is approximately $25,000.

“Almost everybody in the fishing industry was blindsided by this announcement,” Edwards said. “I didn’t find out until Wednesday evening after calling my Evinrude rep Larry Olson. He told me he had just been informed by upper management late that afternoon.”

Edwards said he has contacted his attorney.

“Who would buy an outboard motor without a warranty? Those 30 motors sitting on my lot are worth essentially nothing if this situation can’t be resolved without Evinrude declaring bankruptcy.”

The boat dealer said he was “certain” replacement parts for Evinrudes will still be available, but that there may be supply-chain issues from this point forward. Wisconsin is home to two major distribution hubs located in Sturtevant and Beloit.

Edwards said he believed the Beloit hub, which stores both motors and parts, will remain open, with employees “likely” to keep their jobs.

But many in the extended “family” of Evinrude employees, some who have worked up to 45 years, are now without jobs.

“I don’t think this is related to the coronavirus crisis,” Edwards said. “I believe this corporate move has been hashed over at the highest level for several months. However, all other persons in the Evinrude network from factory workers to retail boat dealers have been kept totally in the dark.”

BRP Corporation is based out of Canada. Other divisions market snowmobiles, three-wheel motorcycles and other recreational products.

The iconic outboard motor was conceived by Norwegian immigrate Ole Evinrude working out of a shed on a small family farm near Cambridge, and was first marketed in 1909. The decision is difficult to get your head around.

Over the past century, fishers and boaters have often referred to Evinrudes as “true blue” for dependability as much as this outboard motor’s traditional color.

I can’t remember the color of the 30-horse Evinrude that powered our homemade pontoon boat over on the Mississippi when I was growing up. She brought me home safely on my first solo overnight there back in 1962 as a salty 11-year-old.

I bought my very first Evinrude five years later. It was more important to a kid who had just discovered a lifelong passion for fishing instead of spending the $90 on a car. That 1956 18-horse was purple and white.

The gas line running to a six-gallon steel tank was a double hose. The motor had two magnetos—a far cry from modern electronic ignitions. One of them decided to malfunction during a thunderstorm in the middle of Lake Koshkonong in the summer of 1969. Kosh is still no place to try rowing a 14-foot boat in a serious blow.

Back in the day when outboards had magnetos, trolling motors were called “oars.” When folks stop calling fish “fish” it might be time to take up golf. Maybe bowling.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at tedpeck@acegroup.cc.

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