The Right Boat

Originally published 4/28/89 in several Maryland newspapers

The Right Boat

by Tom Dove

You probably wouldn’t choose a Chevrolet sedan to drive across Africa. You might make it, but there are more suitable vehicles for the trip – a Land Rover, for instance. The same Land Rover isn’t really right for a trip across the United States on Interstate highways, where the sedan would be more comfortable.

Yet, we still see people buying boats that aren’t suited to the type of use they will give them. Look around any marina and you will see a heavy displacement ocean cruising sailboat that hasn’t left its slip for a long time because it doesn’t have enough sail area to move it along in the Chesapeake’s light summer breezes. The owner either bought it with dreams of cruising the South Seas or because he wanted something strong enough to stand up to any kind of storm he might encounter.

At the same marina will be several big motor yachts that stay in their slips because fuel costs are astronomical or someone in the family doesn’t like to go out on the Bay where it can be rough.

At this moment, people are crossing oceans in factory production boats designed for sailing in semiprotected waters like the Chesapeake. Most of them will make it to their destinations, but they would be far safer and more comfortable in something else.

And so it goes. Families buy cabin cruisers and then discover that they use them most of the time for water skiing. An impatient executive discovers that he doesn’t like to spend his time sailing but wants a powerboat that will get him to Baltimore for dinner and then whisk him back home the same evening. A powerboat skipper gets tired of the noise and expense of operating a cruiser and wants to enjoy the calm feeling of motion without effort that comes only from sailing.

There is a lot of truth in the adage that the two happiest days óin your boating life are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. You can increase your satisfaction with boating by taking an honest, hard look at how you will really use a boat. Talk to your friends and see what they REALLY do with their vessels, not just what they say they PLAN to do.

Do you want to waterski, picnic and explore rivers and creeks around the Bay? A little runabout will fill your needs well and can even be the vehicle to take you overnight camp-cruising.

Do you want to spend weekends in quiet anchorages? Consider a small cruiser or cruising sailboat. You don’t have to go far to find solitude on the Chesapeake.

Do you just love the water and don’t care where you are going? Do you like to be close to Nature and not fight her? Learn to sail and buy a small sailboat.

Do you want a waterfront condominium that doesn’t cost too much and can be moved? Consider a houseboat or even a cruiser with undersized engines. In Chicago’s lakefront marinas, there are rows of big motoryachts without motors – you have to admire their owners’ honesty.

Do you want to cross an ocean and see a landfall from the deck of your own vessel? Get a strong, solid cruising sailboat that will stand up to anything.

Do you want to explore the Chesapeake and East coast under sail? Buy a medium-displacement cruising sailboat with good light-air performance and moderate draft.

Do you want to fish? There’s a whole flotilla of craft out there to take you to your quarry, whether they live in freshwater lakes or the Baltimore Canyon?.

After you figure out how you will use your boat, here are three guides to buying one this spring.

The primary guide: Buy the smallest boat you can be comfortable in. This keeps your initial and maintenance expenses as low as possible. Remember that a bigger boat requires a bigger slip, more fuel and more money for haulout each year.

Second: Buy quality. A cheaply-built boat will cost you more in maintenance, headaches, performance and safety than a well-built one.

Third: Buy a used boat instead of a new one. You can get an excellent craft for half the cost. Go to a Used Boat Show, then spend some time checking out newspaper ads. One of the thousands of boats out there is the right one for you.

CRESCENDO, the 1976 Ranger 33 sloop I have owned since 1980, rests behind my house awaiting the next adventure.