Surf and Turf

Boats and cars continue to evolve together.

January 17, 2019
tell tales
The evolution of the boat-car concept continues. Steve Haefele

My pal mike suggested that I check out a new yacht design — but then directed me to a car manufacturer’s website. Hmm? At the very the end of a list of futuristic concept cars was a motoryacht available for delivery in 2019. I thought of the wonderfully purposeless 1960s Amphicar. Good God, could it have been the missing link?

“Mike, I suppose if fish could walk and dinosaurs could fly, cars can float and boats can roll,” I said.

“Coyle, you’re missing the point,” he told me. “It’s all about branding today.”


Mike admitted that he’d considered such a pairing a few years back. I was shocked, because Mike owns a 60-year-old yacht-design firm and builds custom motor­yachts.

Mike reminded me that in the marine industry, a knowledgeable yachtsman is code-speak for an old yachtsman. “Don’t you get it, Coyle?” Mike asked. “Boomer boaters like you and I are aging out of the pastime. We speak in an ancient tongue when it comes to product recognition. For the next generation of boaters, a wheel will be a tire, not a propeller.

“Let me give another example,” he added. “When I say boat-car, what do you think of?”


“Besides the Amphicar, that’s easy,” I replied. “A 1996 Buick Roadmaster wagon. She could accommodate a complement of four crew and carry a month’s worth of provisions in her belly.”

“Bingo,” Mike said. “You’ve just dated yourself, Coyle. You’re past due.”

I could see Mike’s point, but I expressed my concern that such crossbreeding was more than the language of marketing.


“It’s design language,” I said, grumbling. I’d despised the term since I first heard it while pushing a pen as a yacht ­designer in the 1980s. I reminded Mike of the subtle ­infiltration of outsiders into our ranks at the time.

“Industrial designers, stylists and, uh, the futurists, they’re the cause of this,” I groused. We had been told that their opinions were harmless, of course. Fresh blood, new ideas, a different perspective, that sort of thing.

“We traded proper railings and side decks for full-beam deckhouses and sky lounges with electric windows and sunroofs,” I said. “At the risk of sounding accusatory, I’d say that the bastards stole our soft, sweeping, molded lines and practical use of space and left us with hard corners and design cues that had been kicking around their files since the tail fin,” I said, grumpily.


“Coyle, you sound bitter,” Mike said. “Just take a look at the design.”

“At least it doesn’t have wheels,” I said, feeling snarky.

While I’m not a fan of super-size sport yachts, I admitted that this one was not a ­bad-looking boat.

“Get with it, Coyle. It’s not a redux of the Amphicar,” Mike said. “It is the natural evolution of on-highway and marine transport branding. ­Assuming they sell, it will be good for boaters and the industry.”

Mike is right, but will boat-cars or car-boats be the future? I thought of Charles Darwin. We’ll have to see if these ­creations become a natural selection, or succumb to it.


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