It takes an awful lot for an avid sailor to really take on board the (apparently) obvious differences between a centre console, runabout, and bowrider. (Read If There Weren’t So Many Different Kinds of Boats…) And despite my improved appreciation of the finer points of powerboat design since working at, away from work, I tend to regard powerboats as (at best) necessary, and at worst, a wake-creating, brain-rattling, eardrum-piercing interruption of a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Yet, when I tried to pick my favourite boat, I came up with this... The Shelter Island 38.

Shelter Island 38

Billy Joel has influenced the design of several boats, including this Shelter Island 38.

The caption that accompanied this photo in Lenny Rudow’s recent post about boating celebrities stated, “Reportedly, Joel has been spotted doodling boat pictures on hotel room stationery, while on tour.”

The simple triangles I create on scraps of paper are recognizable only to me as boat doodles; they certainly wouldn’t help anyone create a new design, the way Joel’s did for the Ellis Patriot 36. (Read Express Delivery, part 2) But knowing this famous singer/songwriter kills time in a similar way, makes him seem like a real person, almost a friend — another example of how boats and boating bring us together.

Still, I never expected to come up with his boat as my personal favorite.

I tried, really I did, to come up with a canvas-propelled vessel instead. But here’s the problem: that would mean narrowing down my choices to one single solitary vessel. And that would mean choosing between so many favorite experiences: drifting downwind on a Narragansett Bay Sunday afternoon; trimming, surfing, and dodging salt spray on a muscle-burning reach across Biscayne Bay; sipping sunset adult beverages at anchor, behind some remote pine-treed island in Penobscot Bay; squeaking across the finish line just ahead of the local hotshots on Chesapeake Bay.

Choosing a favorite sailboat would mean choosing a favorite experience associated with that boat, which for me is simply impossible. The range of possibility in my chosen sport allows me to sail to relax, sail to be challenged, sail to be with friends and family, sail to be by myself. I couldn’t choose just one favorite out of that long list; it would be like cutting off a limb.

So I took the easy way out, and chose a powerboat instead.

I’ve never been on a boat of Billy Joel’s, but I’m guessing there’s an equally wide range of experiences available, all within this one hull. And though the finish line might not be quite so formal, I’m sure my favourite has won its share of casual races as well.

For more 'Boats we love' – the true thoughts and feelings of the editorial teams, see: Charter Schooners of Newport, Rhode Island: Boats we love or Snipe Class Dinghy: Still Going Strong After 80 Years.

Written by: Carol Cronin
Carol Cronin has published several novels about the Olympics, sailing, hurricanes, time travel, and old schooners. She spends as much time on the water as possible, in a variety of boats, though most have sails.