Back to the Sea

Yachting, like the rest of the marine industry, has just returned from the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. As you may know, it's the largest in-water show in the world, covering 3 million square feet of space and exhibiting $3 billion worth of boats.

Grand Banks 46 Eastbay SX

Yachting, like the rest of the marine industry, has just returned from the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. As you may know, it's the largest in-water show in the world, covering 3 million square feet of space and exhibiting $3 billion worth of boats.

To be honest, it’s never been my favorite show. Those two impressive numbers — 3 million square feet and $3 billion — are palpable as you walk the docks, and it can feel fairly overwhelming. For journalists, it’s often four days of back-to-back appointments, with little time left for chance discoveries.

Yet this year, I found myself falling in love again — and just when I needed to. I had braced myself for a little more post-show depression than I usually feel, expecting that my recent boat woes would only emphasize the difference between what I love and what I can afford.

I salivated as I admired the Grand Banks Eastbay 46 SX but decided I might be even happier aboard the upcoming Eastbay 50. (I see a very happy retirement plan here.) I yearned for the 50-foot Wesmac_ Kathleen IV_ that Marlow had on display. Beamy, solid, light-filled but cozy … I yearned to write a check, toss off the lines and head up to Maine. Immediately. Yet, I also stood aboard the NISI 2400 GT and thought, This is sweeeeeet. An axe bow, a very modern, limed-oak interior, clever and seaworthy touches everywhere (not surprising — she's a Ward Setzer design) vaulted right over my traditional tendencies and made me think, Hmmmm. I could do this too. Cheoy Lee's Mazu, a 151-foot ship in the Marco Polo series, screams tough-as-nails on the outside, but dazzles with Macassar ebony joinery and a luxurious interior that I could probably learn to love … in about three seconds. As a girl who leans, in her personal taste, toward the part of the show closest to the South Gate Entrance, most at home among the trawlers and Down East-style boats, I was surprised by how many vessels I saw that stretched my nautical desire in new directions.

Puzzled by my seeming fickleness, I pondered its source, but not for long.

Boats, at their most basic, are a conveyance to the sea. Galley up, galley down; single engine or twin pods; leather and onyx or teak and Herreshoff–style; tender garage or hefty davit; motor or sail … the beauty of this sport we love is that there are a million ways to be at home aboard.

What I was really feeling was an itch to be out in the ocean — watching a receding shoreline, swinging on the hook, monitoring the VHF and plotting a course to the kind freedom that only the sea offers. The fact that there were at least a couple dozen yachts that I would love to have take me there? — that was just a plus.

Don’t get me wrong: The 2012 Fort Lauderdale show encouraged me with the sheer variety of yachts, but what I loved most was the sense that our sport is finally making a comeback. Builders are building, boaters are buying, and the economy is moving forward, slowly but surely.

People who have stood on the sidelines for years, delaying their first purchase or trade-in with the hope that there would be total economic certainty, are tired of postponing their dreams.

At this year’s show, it seemed to me that no matter what your taste, the urge to get back on the water was what it was all about. A passion for enjoying the sea is what got us all into this impractical but addictive pastime in the first place. And as Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 famously reminds us “Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds.”

We’re all goners. Life is short, so let’s get back out there and boat.

Editor's Letter, December 2012
Click here to read more from editor Mary South.