January 1, 2009

How to choose a boat

Happy New Year to you. I hope 2009 brings health and happiness to your life. And I hope it makes you content with your choice of boat.

This is the time of year when sailors suffering from winter cabin fever hie themselves off to boat shows and start lusting after new boats. It’s a strange thing, but an extraordinary number of boat owners start feeling the seven-year itch after only a couple of years. They start feeling unhappy about their choice of boat and some — the ones with finer feelings — might even begin to feel guilt and remorse about wanting something younger, faster, more attractive, and more accommodating.

New York naval architect Dave Gerr says one of the most common requests he gets is to take a given hull and make it either larger or smaller. Which leads me to ask: Why are people so seldom satisfied with they’ve got?

The answer, it seems to me, is that they did things in the wrong order. They first bought the boat, and only later decided what they wanted it for.

For beginners, especially, it’s difficult to know what boat will suit you best, and even experienced yacht brokers will occasionally try to sell you an unsuitable boat for reasons of stupidity, cupidity, or both.

When you think about it, there are boats dedicated to a wide variety of uses, and a boat that’s best for one thing is often not even adequate for other uses. So someone itching to buy a boat should first scratch himself and find out why he wants a boat. Here are a few possible reasons:

—Board sailing/fishing/gunkholing and exploring/kayaking and canoeing.
—Making a lot of irritating noise, speeding in small circles, jumping other people’s wakes, and generally showing off.
—Motor-sailing/power cruising/power racing.
—Rowing or paddling for fun.
—Rum running/drug smuggling/illegal immigrant conveyance.
—Sail racing/sail cruising/sail camping/trailer sailing.
—Scuba diving/water skiing/sunbathing/bikini displaying and cocktail drinking.

There are boats specially designed for all these activities — and these are only the major categories. When it comes to fishing, or sailing, for example, there are many sub-categories designed for special purposes, and they’re very different boats.

Happiness comes from having the right boat for what you want to do, and the single most important step to selecting a boat is to deliniate clearly your personal and financial constraints, and the kind of boating you hope to do, now and in the future.

Chuck Gustafson, author of How to Buy the Best Sailboat,says: “If you take this first step seriously, you will dramatically increase the probability of a good match between your boat and you.”

So if you’re planning to divorce your present boat, do the clever thing. Before you find yourself in the same bind a second time, do your homework. Think first. Act later. The more work you do now, the longer the bliss that will follow.

Today’s Thought
The difficulty in life is the choice. –George Moore, Bending of the Bough.

The Federal Bureau of Statistics reports that the average time between throwing something out and needing it again is two weeks.

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