The Fog of Boat Ownership

Since it’s midseason for boating in most of the United States now, it may be a good time to step back and look at the state of your boating life. Many boaters across the country obviously find June, July, and August to be prime boating months, where cool breezes kiss away the oppressive heat and proximity to the water offers the chance for quick, cooling swims. These halcyon days smooth over the problems and challenges all boaters face. I’m talking about how the way you use your boat has changed since you bought her, and what you should be thinking about—even if the conclusions are unpleasant.

Edgartown Harbor in Martha's Vineyard

Edgartown Harbor in Martha’s Vineyard

I spoke to a boater at length in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard, where I was spending the long Independence Day weekend. He’s a lifelong boater and an entrepreneur, and he’s made a point of building his life and his business in a way that’s conducive to pursuing the sport. But he’s also very realistic.

“I sometimes wonder if I’d be better off with a smaller boat,” he ruminated recently. “I can still enjoy the water around here the same way I do now, for the most part. It would be less upkeep and expense, and more easy to manage short-handed.” What he’s leaving unsaid is that his life has changed substantially since he first bought his offshore-ready Regulator center console: His business is growing at a good clip, and of course he’s working harder and with longer hours. His boat sits on the mooring while he travels for business, or hustles to capitalize on opportunities that present themselves. At the same time, and somewhat counterintuitively, he could probably afford to upgrade, if he set his mind to it. But when we saw other, larger center consoles, he demurred—he wasn’t pushing the limits on the boat he had now. He’ll always have a boat (or two, or three), but he won’t have them for long if they don’t fit into his life. Still, sitting in the shade beneath his T-top, I knew a smaller boat would be a significant compromise.

But then what boat isn’t a compromise? I spoke to another boater about just the same topic. It was a Friday evening and he and his wife had just made the trek in the summer traffic from two states away to get to their moored Hallberg Rassy motorsailer—a boat that is a compromise by its very design. Their kids aren’t joining them this weekend—in fact they’re a little too old to want to spend too much time in close quarters with their folks. As for our cruising couple, the boat is their refuge and they’re finally using it the way they always wanted to, gunkholing around on weekends and taking a couple of weeks here and there for longer junkets. They seem very content and you could hear the pride in his voice as he described how he bought the boat, and fitted her out just the way he wanted. He was just itching to get on her, and while he wasn’t rude at all, he was clearly a bit distracted as she swung on her mooring so near.

So there you have it: Two boaters, at different stages of their boating lives. Neither will ever quit the sport.

What about you and your Boat Quest? Leave a comment here or e-mail me at if you have thoughts you’d like to share about your experiences or those of boaters you know.

3 comments on “The Fog of Boat Ownership

  1. Tom Plaht

    We cruise and anchor in coves 3 days a week for 6 months. It keeps our romance alive being alone most of the day and sleeping in. We have thought about another boat (we have six) but the ones we have have been so good to us it hard to sell them and move on to another…. Nearing retirement now so I expect changes will come with time and warmer climates in our future….

  2. Virginia Hicks

    We have cruised in sailboats and trawlers for most of our 50 years of marriage. Our current boat is a 1964 Columbia Contender which my husband gutted and rebuilt with mahogany interior and teak exterior. By the time this two year project was through, we no longer enjoyed being in the sun, and recognized our limitations in moving around the stays and sheets. Consequently, he refitted the sailboat into a “canal boat”. The mast and stays were removed, the tiller replaced with a pedestal steerer and an outboard, and most importantly, a permanent acrylic bimini was installed over the large cockpit. We now have a shaded cockpit on a stable seaworthy vessel that requires only the punch of the starter button to propel us. It will give us a couple of extra years on the water and is quite an eye catcher. Now that’s pragmatism!

  3. Kevin Maher

    There’s something to be said about the beauty and simplicity of a smaller vessel. I think that perfect boat would be a self-bailing center console with a maximum LOA of twenty or so feet with an eight-and-a-half-foot max beam. She would have either single or dual outboard power with almost minimal electronics (multifunction display, tachometer, compass). With the amazing amount of systems installed in today’s boats its not a question of what will fail but when something will fail, rendering the vessel dockside in the already short New England boating season not to mention a pretty penny.

    Every boat’s a compromise in itself. I know that when I bought my Nova Scotia center console and rigged her up that she’d be the cornerstone of my fleet, the one toy to rule them all. But of course now I’m looking forward to the next one – a single inboard downeast!

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