Archive for » October 7th, 2012«

Buying a boat can change your life

Experts say to consider several factors before buying a boat.

There is no secret formula when it comes to buying a boat. Before falling in love with a boat go through many of the same routines needed in purchasing a new car.

Step 1: Decide what purpose the boat will serve. Do you want it for tournament fishing? Family fun? Waterskiing? Entertainment? Your usage should guide your boat-buying decisions. For example, it will determine whether you choose an inboard engine or an outboard. Decide whether you want a center console boat or a boat with a cabin. Do you need a small or a large boat? The most popular size fishing boat is 20 to 22 feet.

Article Photos

Sea Hunt is the top-selling brand at Ingman Marine.

Capt. Mike Anderson, fishing the Boca Grande Pass for tarpon with a young angler on his fishing boat, said buyers should follow their water activity desires. “If fishing is your passion target the many fishing boats available to choose from when you are looking to purchase a new boat.’

The Pathfinder 2300 offers a center console and is great for fishing.

Make sure you buy a boat that is the right size for your needs. Larger boats are great in open waters but are a nightmare to trailer.

Pontoons by Bennington Boats are the No. 2 seller at Ingman Marine.

Step 2: Cost. The asking price is not etched in stone. Determine how much money can you afford to spend on a boat. Buy quality. Your safety depends on it. Do price comparison homework online. Boats sell for less than sticker price more often than not.

Factor in attendant costs such as insurance, life vests, registration fees, fuel, flares, gas, anchor, dock lines and a trailer if you will be traveling with your boat. Water sports may require water skis, wakeboards, tubes, ropes and wet suits.

Factor in boat maintenance and repair costs. Whether you let a marina do the work or you do it yourself this is not an area to skimp. Proper maintenance adds years to your boat’s life.

It’s a big investment for the family so make sure you understand all aspects of the boat you pick out. Involve everyone’s opinion in the family. Everyone will enjoy the boat more knowing they had a part in picking it out. Consider resale value.

Step 3: Picking one out. Shopping for a new boat is challenging. Attend boat shows to see up close the many boats offered in this industry. Ask questions at the shows. Do homework online, too.

Will you store your boat in dry storage or at your own home? Size matters if you are going to trailer a boat.

Fact Box

Boating trends

Sales Manager Larry Storm, with Ingman Marine for 16 years, said his company offers nine brands of boats to choose from. Most dealers offer three to six brands, he said.

His top seller is Sea Hunt.

“We sell more Sea Hunt fishing boats than any other brand,” Storm said. “Sea Hunt offers boat owners the best bang for their buck.”

Ingman Marine has locations in Gasparilla Marina, Port Charlotte and Sarasota. Ingman boat sales are up this year, Storm said. He compared them to the housing market.

“When the housing market is up boat sales tend to be up as well,” Storm said.

After Hurricane Charley in 2005, boat sales went up as owners replaced crafts destroyed by the storm. Boat sales slipped as the Great Recession began in 2008 and are just now regaining traction.

Pontoons by Bennington Boats are big sellers, too, handling salt and freshwater, Storm said. Pathfinder Boats hold resale value well.

Randy Vance, director of, author of “Power Boating for Dummies” and former Editor-in-Chief for Boating Life Magazine, said boat sales are up only slightly.

“Boat sales have improved modestly over the past year – up maybe 10 percent from the previous year, but sales are still far, far below their levels of 2007,” Vance said. “One interesting trend is the increase in young boaters coming into the market. To react to them, manufacturers are coming out with new designs for family runabouts in the 18- to 21-foot range. Glastron’s new GTS 205 and Larson’s just-released LSR 2100 are excellent examples of the new boat building trends.”

When you finally make your decision as to what boat company to go with make sure you get all the details on the warranties they offer. This is an important selling point. If anything goes wrong with your boat you want to make sure the company will stand firmly behind its product and work with the boat owner throughout the repair process.

This purchase is not just about the boat. It’s about the dealership, too. Learn about your local dealers and their reputation. This alone could make or break your boating experience. A great working relationship with a service department is key to being a happy boat owner. Check their turnaround time when a boat goes in for repair.

Talk to other boat owners about their dealer. Their experiences will shed light on things you might not ever have considered. Boat owners have no reason not to tell you the truth.

Step 4: Test drive. Before hitting the water with your new vessel take a boating safety class. Anyone operating or riding in the boat needs to take this course, which could save your life and the lives of others.

Always test the boat in the water before buying. Test it in a challenging body of water – not a calm lake. Florida boats must navigate saltwater and fresh water. Open bodies of water require larger boats with inboard or outboard engines. Larger boats tend to handle rougher water better than smaller boats.

Step 5: Pull the trigger. It is crucial for you to do your homework before purchasing a new boat. Don’t buy more boat than you can afford to maintain and operate.

A boat is a multi-purpose investment that can be used for fishing, riding to restaurants on the water, tubing, skiing, weekend getaways and more. Many boat owners have heard the saying: ” The happiest days of a boat owner’s life is the day they buy their boat and the day they sell it.” A gloomier slogan is: “Boats are holes in the water boat owners throw money into.”

It does not have to be.

Boats are a lot of work and a lot of fun. Just like automobiles, boats need regular maintenance and require steady care in order for the water fun to be long lasting.

Boating will change your life. You gain new perspective from the water. Marine life you see up close is a gift non-boaters don’t often have the opportunity to experience. Boating allows you to get away from life’s everyday stress. Make sure you take the time to choose the perfect boat for you.

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H-P missed the boat, Whitman can’t change that

Whitman blames her predecessors

Yet after hearing Whitman’s comments this week, it’s clear that H-P’s hardware troubles go beyond PCs. Sales of servers, storage gear and networking products aren’t growing fast enough to justify continued investment in those businesses. Read “H-P sets the lowest possible bar.”

That begs the question of why Whitman wants to continue to slug it out against heavyweights like Dell Inc. (US:DELL) , Cisco Systems Inc. (US:CSCO) , EMC Corp. (US:EMC) and Oracle Corp. (US:ORCL)  in those various markets.

The only thing that’s going to reignite consistent sales and profit growth at H-P — as opposed to merely prolonging its demise — is a laser-like focus on software and, to a lesser extent, its services businesses.

Any kind of hardware sales that won’t grow quickly enough or throw off enough cash to fund software RD should be jettisoned sooner rather than later.

When Whitman’s predecessor, former CEO Leo Apotheker, first floated the idea of sacrificing H-P’s hardware pride in favor of a software focus in August 2011, Wall Street reacted with horror, and he was soon out of a job.

But guess what? Wall Street likes what they hear from Whitman even less, judging by Wednesday’s stock drop. Read “H-P tanks as Whitman sees more pain ahead.”

She offered no bold vision for turning the company around and, in fairness to her, there is none. That’s probably why the main thrust of her presentation was to blame “multiple inconsistent strategic choices” made by her predecessors as H-P’s biggest problem.

After one year in the job, Whitman’s main message to Wall Street essentially was that the company is way more screwed up than she thought it was when she took the job.

Investors hate that kind of candor, which helps explain the H-P stock plunge.

Can’t cut your way to long-term growth

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One electric vehicle maker is staying afloat

Let ‘er rip: The Duffy 22 Cuddy Cabin

(Fortune) — The infant electric vehicle industry is in turmoil. Toyota is backing off its EV plans in the face of disappointing sales by the Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt. At Tesla, founder Elon Musk is having trouble scaling up production from more than a few dozen cars a week, while a third CEO in less than a year has been installed in an effort to get Fisker’s Karma back on track.

In the latest upheaval, Shai Agassi, the energetic founder of BetterPlace electric charging networks, has been ousted as CEO. Despite ramping up installations in Israel and Denmark, Agassi proved more successful at raising venture capital — more than $750 million — than stemming losses, which are said to reach nearly $500 million.

In September, reported EV sales for September brightened the gloom a bit. Subsidized lease terms enabled Volt to set a record for the month, and Toyota (TM) reported more deliveries of its plug-in Prius, but overall, the results have been pretty dismal.

Most of these automotive EV efforts have a few things in common: The were high-profile efforts by major players that were lushly funded, heavily promoted, and burdened with ambitious targets for growth.

MORE: 9 electric car stalls, misses, and crackups

Contrast them with the successful work by a little West Coast outfit that operates under the radar. It makes an all-electric, battery-powered vehicle of its own design that seats eight and can run for more than eight hours on a single charge (assuming calm winds). The design has been tested for more 30 years, and some 10,000 vehicles have found buyers. Six models are available in different lengths, with factory-direct prices starting at $27,000.

One drawback: The vehicle’s top speed is five miles per hour, about the pace of a brisk walk.

Another thing: it only operates in water.

The vehicle is the Duffy Electric Boat, built at a factory in Southern California and in production since 1970. The company’s owner, Marshall “Duffy” Duffield, started the business after his motorboat ran out of gas, and he rigged up a battery from a golf cart to keep it from happening again. The boats are built to order and distributed through a dealer network that extends from 10 states in the continental U.S. to Hawaii, Australia, and Sweden.

The magic of Duffy is that it uses proven technology to fill a market need for which it is eminently suited — and for which it has little competition. The old-tech lead-acid batteries that power the boats are widely used in golf carts and can be recharged using an optional high-output charger in about 12 hours — perfectly adequate for recreational boating. Duffy doesn’t overpromise. It declares its boats are safe for cruising in harbors, bays, and small lakes and warns that it is not advisable “to go out in large open waterways or oceans in heavy winds.”

Such candor has won Duffy a large body of loyal owners. Its epicenter is Newport Beach Calif., home to 2,500 boats. While its highways are clogged with exotic cars, its network of harbors make its waters ideal for Duffy boating. Owners grow attached to their vessels and outdo each other with word-play names like “High Voltage,” “So Watt,” and “Shock Cousteau.”

Duffy hasn’t been immune to the economic downturn. According to the Los Angeles Times, new boat sales that once reached $15 million a year are now running at a $7 million to $8 million clip. But Duffy’s longevity suggests that EV success is possible under the right conditions:

1. Think small

Most EV makers seem to believe they have to develop a swoopy, design-forward body to go with their electric powertrain — a decision that sharply ratchets up the capital investment — when customers are really shopping for efficiency, not style. Consumer Reports blasted the Karma for its excess weight, sluggish feel, tight interiors, and dysfunctional touchscreen — faults you don’t expect in a $107,000 car. Ford is one of the rare automakers that avoided the temptation of exlusive designs, fitting its plug-in and electric motors in standard Fusions and Focuses. Duffy installs its batteries in a hull design whose basic shape has been unchanged for 100 years.

2. Set reasonable expectations.

Almost without exception, every EV maker has been forced to scale back its sales and production forecast. Tesla (TSLA) is the latest, having been forced to announce that it had built only 77 cars in the most recent week — far short of its announced goal of 400. Nissan has no hope of living up to CEO Carlos Ghosn’s optimistic prediction made two years ago that Nissan would be selling 500,000 EVs by 2013. General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) gave up making forecasts for the Volt, saying only that it will let the market decide. Duffy avoids the issue entirely by not making projections and only building boats to order.

3. Establish realistic benchmarks

Just as Internet companies used to make revenue projections based on the number of page views, some EV makers have been dazzling investors with tallies of buyer “deposits,” even if those deposits eventually prove ephemeral. Better Place had declared that getting to a world without gas “was simpler than you think” and used a grandiose metric called “global progress” to measure its development. Actual customers, of course, are more interested in safety, reliability, and performance. Duffy modestly owns up to 100% customer satisfaction. In the 40 years it has been making the boats, it says “We can’t remember a single customer demanding their money back because their boat lacked power or speed.”

4. Think long-term

After 15 years, hybrids still make up only a fraction of auto sales despite being adopted by nearly every automaker in the world. The realization is growing that widespread adoption of all-battery EVs will take a lot longer. Although they may initially face criticism for being “behind in technology,” automakers that hedge their bets and conserve their capital may be better off in the long run. The same goes for boatmakers. By finding a niche and taking things as they come, the Duffy boat has managed to stay alive for four decades — even if it can’t win many races.

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