Just Add Water

To grow boating you have to grow boaters — not drown them!

Just Add Water
Just Add Water

Something has been bothering me for two boat show cycles, but I have waited to grouse about it because I thought I might be out of step with the industry visionaries that nourish and promote our pastime. I recently realized this wasn’t the case while chatting with my insurance agent about her family’s passion for boating. While a lot has changed since I was a wee waterman, certain things have remained the same.

As I remember, the moment in question was during the 2009 Miami International Boat Show. It was the February that followed the September in which the old economy petered out and became the new economy. I had been walking the docks all day and understandably the mood was rather somber. I retired to my hotel room to regroup and prepare for a long dinner with mourning industry pundits when a promotional ad for boating appeared on my TV. Hoping for a bit of cheer, I focused on the setting — a summer day and a beautiful body of water. A granddad and grandson strolled down a dock armed with their fishing gear. Hell, given the pressure of a difficult boat show, I’ll admit the scene choked me up a bit as I remembered those first adventures on the water with my dad.

I followed along willingly to the end of the dock, where the granddad walked right off, head first into the drink! Shocked, I wondered if perhaps I had been mistaken — was this America's Funniest Home Videos? Was it an advertisement for a new Alzheimer's medication or perhaps Lasik surgery? Then a male voice boomed, "It's time for that boat." The hell with a boat … how about a life ring? Then the little brat kicked the largest tackle box I had ever seen off the dock on top of the old guy, who appeared to be drowning.

If the point was to shock viewers, the ad worked, although I am still struggling with the message. There is nothing appealing about falling off a dock — trust me, I’ve managed it several times. And though boating is a hereditary disease — particularly in certain families — most boaters take up the pastime before they join AARP, swig Geritol and apparently forget they don’t have a boat! And this brings me to a real boating promotion that did cheer me up and make me dream about getting out on the water. It was my insurance agent Donna Deakins’ story of her family’s passion for boating. After listening, I was convinced that the way to grow boaters is pretty much the same as it has always been.

Donna and her husband, David, had just bought their 12-year-old son, Dalton, a fishing skiff. “Dalton has been aboard 24/7 since delivery, and he’s bringing home fish for dinner,” said Donna with pride. “He completed the Chapman School of Seamanship program as well as the Florida Safe Boating Course — he was ready.” Boating was no accident for the Deakinses, who were introduced to the pastime by their parents. “It seemed we always had something that floated under us,” said Donna, who was one of five siblings. Four of the five turned out to be boaters. Donna expects to beat those odds with her four children. “My oldest is about to get married and has bought a house — he’s already looking at a boat!” The Deakinses both work hard, but they still manage at least one sunset cruise a week and one day a weekend of either fishing or visiting the local sandbar for a bit of family R&R. “Boating is what we do,” Donna said. The Deakinses’ passion for boating is the real deal, and it’s the sort of story that is worth sharing.

For most boaters this pastime is a genetic disorder. I realize this obsession has to start somewhere, but an old man drowning? Please! It just makes me nervous.