In cold logical terms, owning a boat for most people makes no sense. Boats are depreciating assets. They require constant attention and create a continuous stream of expenses. In many areas they are only useful for half the year, if that, and you certainly can’t drive the kids to football matches or dance classes in them.
So unless you are in a business that requires a boat, there is no logical reason to buy one. Imagine the feat of artificial intelligence needed to create a computer program that would ingest all the pertinent facts: income v expense, time required v time available etc, and spit out: "What you need to do is buy a boat." It's fuzzy logic gone mad.
But for some of us, while owning a boat is a pain, not owning one is painful. Starting with my grandparents, my family has been lucky enough to live near the water and be on the water during the summer. My wife and I have tried boat ownership three times before – a J/22 with my sister for two years, a J/35 for two years, and a Hobie 33 for another two years. Then, after selling the Hobie, we were “boatless” for two years. None of this sounds very logical, even in a fuzzy way.
The J/22 was fun, but we wanted to try something bigger. The J/35 was a big jump, and the size of the project was a bit overwhelming, so I decided that we just had to sell the boat. The Hobie 33 was an attempt to find something a little more exciting and more manageable. It was both, but not by much, and was not as versatile as the J/35 had been.
So, each one lasted only two years before we sold it. My friend and semi-boat partner in these efforts, Louis Mariorenzi, concluded that I was just into the fix-up part of these projects and then lost interest. “As soon as you get to replacing the stanchion bases, that’s the kiss of death.” I hope he’s wrong – we’ll see. The past two summers have had their benefits – it’s fun to race with other people on their boats rather than being consumed by your own project. And it’s nice to step off a boat after a race, or at the end of the season, and not have to think about fixing what broke, unloading the boat, winterising, storage, etc.
The freedom of owning a boat
But something is missing without a boat. Crewing on someone else’s boat is fun, but you can’t take the whole family. And there’s more to a boat than racing. Owning a boat is a great way to escape the scheduled world of jobs, corporate structures, and youth sports practices – to go daysailing, swimming, fishing, cruising, with or without guests. There’s freedom in owning a boat, even freedom of expression – to run your boat the way you want. Ironically, you even start to miss the ongoing project, which can be hugely satisfying as you get to know the boat and it becomes more “yours” with each modification or upgrade.
Even with that, it’s hard to take the plunge and decide to buy. You have to pull out the big rationalisations, like, “My friend, Phil, who just put three girls through college, says that whatever we save for University will end up in the University's account anyway.” Or a fun one, “Think of it as an inexpensive beach house.” Or the king of them all: “Our kids aren’t getting any younger and neither are we.” So armed with those mantras, it’s on to boats.com for hours at a time… and the process begins.
Tap into a wealth of advice articles on boats.com including: How to inspect a second-hand boat before buying and How to choose your first yacht and Choosing a boat: which boat is right for me?.