I’d buy an IMOCA 60 and park it in that slot betwixt the Black Pearl and Oldport Marine. I’d sit on the deck and waggle a toe at the milling masses. In an afternoon southerly, I’d unfurl the J2, slip the dock and bang around the harbor. Maybe on some wicked weekend, I’d crank over to Sag Harbor and front on my mon frère. When the breeze built right, I’d loop up to Bar Harbor and crash at my cousin’s with all 60 feet burbling at the dock’s end. I’d like that.
My reasoned wife, rolling on twenty-two inches of supercharged Rover, isn’t shy of harnessed horsepower, but she fails to share my IMOCA enthusiasm. Too spartan, says she. A boat show tour of an AMEL 50 left her wistful and unwavering. That combination of blue water bruiser and cozy cabin bracketed by bulkhead has me crunching numbers that never quite work – unless, like a reverse Cortés, we sell the shoreline and move aboard. When Johnny Walker’s visiting (wearing his Musto best and pacing our kitchen), this idea seems worthy and embraceable; less so in the morning light.
There are expensive good builds, pricey sloppy builds, cheap builds and bad pennies. I’ve seen five million dollars afloat with all its cabinetry fasteners stripped by the speed of the builders’ powered screwdrivers. I’ve seen polished hulls missing scantlings, fiberglass voids on million-dollar center-consoles, and new production models making water from parts unknown. Caveat emptor; more like nautical bender.
You’ve got to buy right, even if you’ve got dollars to sink. To these eyes, the boat building world can still feel wild west-like where those venturing forth with an even temperament and cool analysis lived another day and the lumbering ignorant didn’t. Anyway, I’d pass on the boat builder that’s not supplying a warranty. On a new build and without consideration as to whether it’s a production or custom model, I’d have a naval architect/marine engineer climbing all over. On the one-off that’s my fantasy boat, I’d hire the local marine surveyor to give me the rumor feed to make sure I understand the ownership history and maintenance. I’d have a maritime lawyer give the purchase and sales agreement a good mark-up with attention to making my remedies right so that the builder isn’t forcing me to file suit or start a claim in Timbuktu. That is, you want a sales agreement that’s fair and not heeled over in favor of the builder. I’d call a vessel documentation specialist and query them up and down on what I want to do with the boat and how I plan on doing it to make sure the government’s goals and my plans sort of fit together. (I’d also query these knowledgeable folks about how best to execute the vessel sale to realize tax savings. Even if they can’t get super granular with you, between their advices and your accountant, you might end up saving yourself some real money.)
The boating industry’s siren call is the decades-old fantasy you’ve needle-pointed on sleepless nights, on those tiring corridors of travel framing your endeavors and in between a marriage and children and life. It’s that image of diamond-dappled spray mingled with the A-G-D chord progression of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s Southern Cross that has you wanting to get out of town. It’s the “I’ve earned this” mantra that’ll have you buying without realizing a boat isn’t a car or a house, but more like a mare where canter and flex and footing should be your focus. You need to be on your toes, man. You’re buying an expensive something that’s largely hand-built in relatively small numbers meaning you can’t ever take comfort in the Ford Escort theory – they’ve built a billion, you know what you’re getting, etc.
I’ve always loved the Fox body 5.0 Mustang. My nineteen-year-old self overlooked the sketchy handling for its growl, crouch and head-snapping lunge. I’ve never wanted to buy one. Wrong car for this fellow; you’ve got to buy right for you. Buy what you can handle because the ocean has a funny way of making you quickly realize when you’re punching above your weight. If you’re not planning on a hired crew, spend time driving the boat before pulling the trigger to make sure the waterline isn’t so long you can’t get it from here to there and in between those pilings.
For me, I’ve always driven a Mercedes with the big 144 chassis being my favorite. These days, the wheel and spoke with laurel leaf ride the hood of a wagon with aftermarket hitch. It’s a car that’s right for tugging Lasers and moving Optis and launching Whalers. Your new boat should be right for what you want to do, not what you want people to think you do.
Get vaccinated. Plan a weeklong family cruise. Savor the thought of lobsters and steamers and that effervescent blend of gin, sun and seawater.
Underway and making way. ■
John K. Fulweiler, Esq. is a Proctor-in-Admiralty representing individuals and small businesses in maritime matters including personal injury claims throughout the East and Gulf Coasts and with his office in Newport, Rhode Island. He can be reached at 1-800-383-MAYDAY (6293) or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his website at saltwaterlaw.com.