Archive for » May 14th, 2015«

Know what you want before buying a boat

There is an old adage that the happiest day in a boater’s life is when he buys his first boat. The second happiest day is when he sells it.

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There’s a lot of truth to that statement. But not because boats are expensive or they break down too often. The hard, cold truth of the matter is this. Most unhappy boaters simply bought the wrong boat.

I count myself among those disappointed. When I went boat shopping, I was looking for a lean, mean fishing machine. But when I told my wife about my brand new center-console, the first thing she asked was, “Does it have a bathroom?”

“Well … not exactly,” I said.

“Not exactly,” she quipped. “I was looking for a yes or no answer.”

That’s when I launched into a lengthy treatise on the many uses of a 5-gallon bucket, which she dismissed outright, confirming my suspicions that she would never set foot in a watercraft that I planned to pay for from a joint bank account that I must admit I’ve never really paid much attention to.

“What about seats?” she asked. “I hope it has a lot of them.”

“No seats,” I replied. “”You drive the boat standing up.”

This went over as well as the multi-purpose painter’s bucket.

As I suspected, my wife never ventured out in the bay boat. But she did remind me every time we went out with a friend with a real boat — you know the kind with cushioned seats, bathroom, stereo and wet bar — how much fun she had.

So that’s why it didn’t take much for Chad Wallace to convince me to forsake my old fishing boat and join the ranks of those who consider themselves “pleasure” boaters.

“This Crossover has got a lot of power,” said Wallace, a salesman with Pro Marine Boat Sales on Bay Pines Boulevard in St. Petersburg. “You don’t have to sacrifice creature comforts for performance.”

After 25 years on the outdoors beat, I have had my fill of boat shows. It takes something a little out of the ordinary to get my blood pumping. I’ve never been a fan of “party boats” but Wallace convinced me to take Starcraft’s new SCX OB Crossover out for a spin.

The boat, and hundreds of others, will be on display this weekend at the Tampa Bay Boat Show at the Florida Fairgrounds. With boating season in full swing, the Tampa Bay Boat Show is a great opportunity to get out and see the new makes and models all under one roof.

“You have to look at what’s out there to really make an informed choice,” said Wallace, a 34-year-old from St. Petersburg who has been boating most of his life. “My advice — look at everything before you make a choice.”

Trust me, before you sign on the dotted line, be realistic about what you want, and make sure you consult with other members of the family, especially if they will be sharing the cost.

While I may opt for pleasure, just as many first-time boat buyers are interest in something else — fishing. By far, the hottest selling fishing boat is the center-console. Bay boats are the most versatile watercraft you will find. They are small, light and affordable multipurpose crafts that can run in fairly shallow water yet still handle a chop if the seas kick up on the inland waterways.

There are literally dozens of quality companies making great fishing boats these days, so in the end, it is going to come down to how much you want to spend. Do you plan to pay for the boat in one lump sum or through monthly payments?

Answer those questions before you settle on a specific model. Once you decide on what you want, check the used boat ads for resale value. If you buy the boat now, what will it sell for in two or three years?

Another factor to consider is storage. Do you plan to trailer your boat? If so, will you keep it in your garage? On the side of your house? In a boat yard? If you store your boat away from home, that will add to your monthly expense.

If you are new to boating, sign up for a safe boating class. Florida law requires that any person born on or after Jan. 1, 1988 who operates a vessel with a motor of 10 horsepower or greater must successfully complete a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators-approved safe boating course.

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