An Old Boat Launches a New Life

Rebuilding a 36-year-old boat in a quest to help anglers with disabilities turns a California man’s life around.

mike and his boat

mike and his boat

A boat called Overcome -- Mike Dolbow says his boat is 80 percent of the way to being ready for the water and full operation as a charter boat with specialized gear to serve disabled anglers.

“I’m proof that it doesn’t matter how far down in life you go. You can pick yourself up.”

Mike Dolbow's guiding philosophy, as described to U-T San Diego's Ed Zieralski, is part of what makes Dolbow's such a compelling story.

At the heart of that story is a boat. It’s a boat that seems unlikely as a focal point for a man’s inspiration and aspirations, but the two-plus years Dolbow has spent rehabilitating the 1977 30-foot Century, in Oceanside, California, have provided Dolbow with the motivation to rehabilitate himself at the same time.

As a busy and successful engineer and teacher of electronics manufacturing, rehabilitation was the last thing on his mind — until a heart attack and stroke in 2010 left him in a wheelchair, physically and mentally devastated. He understood that he’d continue to eke out a life on disability and never again be able to do the things he loved, including fishing.

But a dream began to supplant the despair for Dolbow, a dream of running a charter fishing service that would specialize in taking disabled anglers (particularly vets) fishing offshore.

It seemed impossible, but "I traded the only thing I had left, my RV, for [that] Century," he says. He named the boat Overcome.

With help from friends, he went to work fixing up Overcome, a vessel__ that needed a great deal of TLC. At the same time, he forced himself to recover. Today, still working on the project, Dolbow is lean and fit, long out of his wheelchair (though he says he'll never regain the mathematical skills necessary for engineering) and pursuing his dream,

But his dream still has a long way to go. While an impressive amount of retooling, refitting and refinishing has Overcome looking very good, Dolbow says he still needs a great deal to finish the project, including starters, seals and gaskets, a carburetor rebuild kit, radar arch, safety gear and more. With his own funds running out, he's hoping that donations by others who believe in his project will help bridge the gap.

Dolbow plans to “serve anglers with disabilities ranging from amputations to strokes and brain injuries. Specialized fishing gear, chairs and other special equipment will assist them” so they can fish.

Meanwhile, Dolbow has been sworn into the Coast Guard Auxiliary and is working on his skipper’s license. “It’s been a long road from the wheel chair,” he says. “I got a second chance, and I want to dedicate my life to helping others enjoy what I was told would be impossible for me to ever do again.”

Dolbow has made a video of his road to recover and project Overcome "to show how serious we are" about this. His e-mail address: