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Diapers to Diapers

Navigating the great circle of life in boats.

March 7, 2017
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Illustration, Tell Tales
Illustrated by Steve Haefele. Steve Haefele

I’d been thinking about downsizing a bit to an open-console boat, so I set course for the Fort ­Lauderdale International Boat Show with my pal Bob. “Coming full circle in boating isn’t uncommon for aging boomers like me,” I explained.

He insisted I was simply ­going through a phase. In fact, he proved it.

We were still arguing as we wandered the docks. “Console boats make sense,” I said. “They always have.” My first ride was the iconic 13-foot Boston Whaler. I was still in diapers. “A console helm and six seats and 500 bucks new in 1958, as I recall.”

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“That’s not a boat,” Bob said. “That’s a dinghy. Full circle. You’re just a lazy, cheap SOB.”

As Bob eyeballed a new 53-foot express, a broker spotted me staring blankly at the price tag on a new 35-foot open-console boat.

“You have a good eye. She’s top-of-the-line. What sort of budget do you have?” he asked.

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I told him what I’d pocketed when I parted with my diesel convertible. He winced.

“Yeah, there’s just not much of a market for classics like that anymore.”

“Classic? She was like new, for God’s sake!” I blathered. I thought of my late Pop. Hell, I felt like him!

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Our family had shed green on larger cruising yachts, but as Pop aged, he’d returned to the basics. At the time, new outboard-powered, fiberglass, open-console designs were channeling the practicality of the prewar wooden ­utilities he’d grown up with. He’d groused about paying $4,000 for a new 20-foot SeaCraft, but he found her  design easy to keep and her 25-knot cruise invigorating.

My first new boat was a ­25-foot Mako. She was the largest open-console boat on the market at the time. Like the SeaCraft, she was a simple boat. A pair of 150 hp outboards yielded a 25-knot cruise. I had groused about the $19,000 she’d set me back, but she was perfect. As I reviewed the new 35’s price tag, it occurred to me I never should have sold her.

“My first new boat was a 25-foot mako. She was the largest open-console boat on the market at the time.”

“State-of-the-art. Vacuum-bagged, bidirectional over closed-cell foam — not a splinter of wood in her,” the broker boasted.

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“Do you have anything in woven roving and encapsulated plywood?” I grumbled.

“Those outboards are more reliable than your dirty old diesels,” he continued.

“There are four of ’em, for God’s sake,” I said.

“That’s right,” he answered. “You’ll see 60.”

He meant knots. I didn’t care.

“I’ve already seen 60,” I mumbled, referring to my own ­aging chassis.

Bob proposed that I negotiate (he meant chisel). “What’s the price without the climate-controlled head, 10,000-watt stereo, joystick docking system and underwater mood lighting?” I asked.

“Perhaps you should consider something a bit smaller,” the broker suggested.

“There you have it, Bob. Even the broker agrees with me.”

On the ride home, we stopped at the Coyle fleet graveyard, and I carefully unearthed my old 13-foot Whaler. “She’s perfect. I’m coming full circle, diapers to diapers,” I laughed.

Bob was not buying it. At 85 years old, he’s buying that new 53-foot express. He’s not interested in diapers or the graveyard.

I’m not either. I’m glad he came along.

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