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Skipper’s Corner: Is Boating Only For The Rich?

Are the days gone when the little guy can afford a boat?
What happened to price and value? All you have to do is look at the auto industry and it is obvious that they are targeting primarily men who want to be ‘’Real Men” with expensive, giant, pick-up trucks. And then there’s the cool Mercedes crowd. In boats, it’s the same but different.

There are luxury boats with every amenity to appeal to the cruisers. These boats are full of plushy, cushy, vinyl seating, luxurious home-like interiors with fashion galleys, trendy heads and designer color hulls, all of which will look out of date in just a few years. The price ranges on these floating palaces will drown your bank account. Even the smaller versions will cause a serious leak out of your assets. If you can afford one of these, no problem. Enjoy! Then there’s the Fishing Machines outfitted with four giant outboards, custom outriggers, every fishing gadget and the latest electronics imaginable. You go to a boat show and you are met with a nautical razzle-dazzle that’s specifically targeting you so that you will spend your savings. If you don’t have the bucks in the bank you are tempted to sell your kids to own a piece of this exciting, trendy, and promised adventure.
How did it get to this point? Once there were endless amounts of small boat makers all along our ocean coasts and the Great Lakes (More boating than most of us realize). Most are gone now. Big corporations came in and bought all the great little guys like Mako, Boston Whaler, Silverton, etc. The new owners redesigned the boats and got into the style and marketing game. Even the remaining smaller companies followed the Pied Pipers and their prices have gone through the roof.
So, what happens to the little guy who loves the water but doesn’t have the big bucks or wants to mortgage the family Oyster Farm? What about both the commercial bayman and sport fisherman who just don’t have the bucks or the need to buy these fancy machines? Well, there are several options, especially if you are not into fancy, fancy, which is the bulk of us boaters. Firstly, you can check Craig’s and similar “online” lists for used boats for sale. If you find something you think is compatible with your needs and desires you call the seller and get some facts about the vessel. If the price seems about right and you like what you hear, arrange a “look-see” meeting while you are examining your financial position to see if the vessel is in your area of possibility. Look at your Savings and Loan Bank possibilities. There are some great credit unions you can go to for reasonable rates.
Try to avoid selling your wife’s jewelry, raiding your kid’s college funds, secretly removing money from your mother-in-law’s accounts or pawning her pedigree pet schnauzer as you will never, I mean NEVER, EVER, enjoy the boat. That I guarantee. Next, take it for a ride. If you will be taking her out in the ocean regularly, take her out to see how she reacts. Have a marine mechanic check the engine(s) thoroughly and a marine surveyor look everything over. If it passes, it’s time to make a deal.
The price listed is rarely the price. Time to negotiate! The seller wants it off his hands- You are his savior! Fight for the lowest price you can push him into without compromising the seller’s dignity. You can always backtrack if he seems insulted by saying “Only kidding! What is your bottom price?” if he doesn’t hit you in the head with a small Danforth Anchor, he will chuckle, compromise, and – You just bought a great boat for a workable price! Next thing you know you’re waxing the hull, painting the bottom and crossing the bay.
A lot of folks bought expensive boats during Covid. Many of them never had a boat before, which is obvious to any old salt. These ‘’sunny day captains” are in their epiphany period right now and are beginning to realize that boating is more than just fun, it’s a responsibility! The payments are crushing them, their green fees are up, and they will be putting them up for sale in a season or two. Only hardened boaters are unphased by the maintenance of their vessel. As these boats come up for sale, you will have purchase opportunities galore. So, it’s time to start planning now for the quest to find your affordable boat!
See you on the water!
Captain Eddy