Finding The Boat That’s Best For You

By Tom Neale, 4/2/2013


Tom Neale's logs have a new name and home on BoatUS Magazine. We know Tom has a loyal and devoted readership, so we wanted to share his tips and insights with an even bigger audience! For the latest articles, click here for Onboard With Tom Neale.

Sea Ray, Bayliner, Mainship, Mako, Carolina Skiff, Post, Buddy Davis, Hatteras, Hunter, Nordhavn, Sabre, Beneteau, Catalina, Marlow, Grady White, Whaler, Hinckley ... . and the beat goes on and on. These boats and many more all have one thing in common. They turn people on. They may not turn you on, but even if they don't, you can be sure they do it for others. One of many things that boats do well is to demonstrate that old adage: There are different strokes for different folks. You may hate one type of boat. You may hate what it looks like, how it performs, hate even the basic mission it was designed to accomplish. But somebody loves it, and that somebody may hate your type of boat. You may not like going slow, you may not like going fast, you may not like leaving the confined shallow waters of your creek or you may hate having to come in from the ocean. You may love fishing or love sailing or love kayaking. Whatever it is, there's a boat for you, especially designed and built for you. Spring is coming with those birds and the bees. It's a good time to think about what turns you on. Hopefully you already have it, but, one thing that most boaters have in common is that we dream. We always dream about the next one. The question is, how do you decide? A bad decision, whether it's about your first boat or whether to stick with what you have or get another, can turn what could have been a wonderful experience into a bad drag.

Which one turns you on
Which one turns you on?

Do you really know what turns you on? Maybe; maybe not. The key to knowing what you want is experience. Many people, for example, start out thinking they want to sail. But soon they get tired of taking all day to get to a destination that their friends reach in an hour. And they get tired of trying to deal with the wind which never seems to cooperate. And they get tired of all the extra "work" as compared to tossing the dock lines, turning the key and going. Soon they're wishing (though they may not admit it) for an express cruiser. Conversely, many people begin with that small express cruiser but soon get tired of having to go to a marina to plug in and get air conditioning and having to pay a week's wages for a day on the water and having to find and then pay a tiny mechanic because normal people (including owners) can't shoe horn themselves into the tight spaces between hulls and huge engines ... much less fix them. The guy having a wonderful time fishing in his kayak may dream of someday having a sport fish. But when he finally goes for broke and gets one he finds that the whip of the tuna tower makes him seasick and the cost of diesel to feed those big engines sends him fishing at the fish market, hoping he has enough money left to buy a catfish.

So how do we get this experience? Getting a boat is not like getting a car (although there are some misguided souls who'd have you think so). You can't drop in and test drive a bunch of them. Even if you could you wouldn't learn much because a boat is so much more than a car. And you can't hop off, say, your sailboat, stroll down the dock, and approach the billionaire on the 70 foot sport fish and ask if you can come along and go fishing. But you can go on a sport fishing charter. And you can charter other types of boats also. And at most marinas there are people in boats different from yours who'll appreciate it when you tell them that you're interested in their boat and their type of boating. Many will be happy to tell you about their boat—what they like and don't like — and perhaps show you around. They may be delighted if you return the favor. We're boaters. We like to brag about our boats and most of us are always dreaming.

Tom's Tips
Tom's Tips About
Staying Turned On

1. Don't get into the frame of mind that you've got to have a big boat to be happy.

2. If you like your rowboat, be proud of it. Rowboats are great. I've had a bunch of them.

3. If you like your boat, whatever it is, fix it up with things that make it better. It's fun to do, it gives you fun and it adds value to your boat.

4. For example, on that rowboat you can add drink holders just aft or forward of the oarlocks out of way of your sweep.

5. Or you can add a "front view mirror" to the transom so you can see where you're going.

6. Or, if you really want to "dude it up" and be the envy of other rowboat owners, you can retrofit a rowing seat similar to those in the competitive racing shells.

7. Add a boarding ladder that you hang over the side so that you can take a swim when it gets too hot to row (and have a line to tie yourself to the boat if needed).

8. No boat is too simple to fix up some more or to have more fun in.

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Also, a boat is like a smorgasbord of untouchable delights. Until you tell the person selling them that you want to touch them and then you'll be surprised at how quickly they find a way. We shouldn't limit ourselves at boat shows. That's a bit perverse. We shouldn't just go to the power boat shows if we have a power boat, or sailboat shows if we sail. We can get a lot of insight into what else might turn us on by looking at other boats and listening to the marketing philosophy. The Annapolis Sailboat Show and Annapolis Powerboat Show occur on back to back weekends. The Miami International Boat Show has a sail and a power section. Many other shows also "cover the waterfront." Getting experience is fun.

But consider beyond the glitter. Beyond the obvious, what does this type of boat mean for me? Here are some examples. A powerboat is likely to have more creature space inside because its hull is wider and its lines are more "boxy" than a sailboat. The curves of that sailboat may appeal to you and, importantly, they help to make it sail well. But they mean less creature space inside. Also the hull differences mean a different motion at anchor and underway.

Let's look at the different sides of speed. Going fast gets you there before the storm, gets you to weekend destinations you couldn't reach running slow, and is just plain fun. But it also gets you loud noise, requires extra attention navigating in many circumstances, can be more stressful and costs hugely. Running slow is more relaxing, costs less fuel and allows you to better smell the roses as you go. But it can be maddening when you NEED to get there soon.

A center console type boat lets you have more fun that "makes a mess" like fishing, beaching, taking the dogs and picnicking. A cabin cruiser limits much of this (unless you just don't care) but lets you stay out overnight and keep dry when it rains.

A mega-yacht can take you to the Med, can impress your billionaire friends, can allow you to boss captain and crew around and have fun with no concern for navigation, cooking or fixing the engine. But ... well, I haven't had enough experiences with these boats to even talk about it.

And then there's the kayak. It doesn't cost much. It takes no fuel. There are no worries about ethanol. There's almost nothing that will break down and require fixing. There are no marina or haulout expenses. It's quiet. It ghosts into special coves that make you feel like you're exploring new worlds. You can fish with it if you want. It gives you a great workout if you wish. And you can easily haul it up onto the deck of your mega-yacht at the end of the day ... if you have both.

If you're already into boating, don't stop dreaming. There's always so much more, unless what you have is perfect for you (and that's great if you just recognize it). If you're not into boating, come on in. There's something here for you. Just take it slowly and enjoy.



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