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From the Pilothouse - Go Have Fun

Whew! The fall shows are done, and life can get back to normal. It was a fabulous fall season, and we met thousands of people at our TrawlerPorts and boat shows.

As I think back on the last five years, I'm struck by how much we've learned and the extent of evolution in our cruising under power niche. We first began with traditional trawlers—encompassing rugged, serious passagemakers—yet we've seen our market explode with cruising alternatives.

There is one nagging concern. As the ranks of membership increase each year, I find myself having a remarkably similar conversation again and again, with people from Florida, the Great Lakes, Puget Sound, New England, California, and the Carolinas.

The subject always begins with the question about what kind of boat a couple should buy. Quite often a deposit has been placed on the new boat, but with an accompanying reluctance to let go of other choices just yet. Sometimes it's the start of a year-long search, and the couple has worked through just enough details to get the process rolling.

No matter what generates this initial discussion, I feel their sense of anxiety, stress, and the weight of decision on both husband and wife.

Oh, didn't you know? The search for a proper is not a guy thing anymore. The most rational questions often come from the wife.

The most typical situation has the couple figuring they need a big boat, but one that neither spouse is really ready to handle comfortably. They are the first to admit it, yet their plans usually include requirements for offshore voyaging. This routinely brings a sense of foreboding to one or the other, or both.

When we get down to business and really explore how this couple expects to use the boat, most of the time I'm witness to a great weight lifting from two pair of shoulders and a genuine, collective sigh of relief.

It's that old story: talking oneself into a much bigger boat than is required for enjoyable cruising. In almost every case I can recall from this past fall, the couple has cause for celebration at the end of the day. They somehow reaffirm the original concept of pleasure boating.

For whatever reason, people can reach a conclusion that they must buy a boat that is such-and-such long, is equipped with such-and-such equipment, and built to scantlings that will surely take them safely out into the scary world and protect them.

Funny thing, though. Most of these couples, when we dig into how they honestly plan to use the boat, assure me they've not plans to cross oceans, nor do they intend to live aboard for the rest of their lives, selling every worldly possession to live the life of a vagabond. No way.

Rather, these people intend to spend quality time afloat, in extended blocks of liveaboard time, exploring the coastal waterways, the Great Circle Route, and perhaps venturing across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas, or down to Mexico, or some other exotic, but realistic destination. Even Europe beckons, but crossing the ocean from the deck of a yacht-transport ship.

At some point in the discussion, I see relief in their eyes as they come to realize they've set their bar so high they've scared themselves.

I remember one couple explaining how they wanted to go south when they retire in a couple of years. Their enthusiastic search for the right boat led them to the conclusion that only one boat, a beautiful passagemaker that many of us love, was the only boat for them. They came to the show to see it—again.

Then the husband confided they could never hope to afford such a splendid yacht, not even a well-worn one with miles under the keel. It was simply beyond their means.

His disappointment was obvious, and he prepared to accept the harsh reality of never going cruising at all, because his ship would never come in. It was sad.

I'm not sure I convinced them otherwise, that in fact there are literally dozens of boats that suit their needs, well within their budget. I wonder where this couple will be next year?

Don't fall into the trap of overcomplicating your life with plans fit for a king, one a prince's means.

Krogen Express' Judd Straus said it best at Fort Lauderdale show, as he found himself having this same discussion with prospective buyers.

"Buy a boat good enough for what you want to do. Then go have fun."

Bill Parlatore