Finding the Dream Boat

All I want is two seats and a console. Why is that so hard?
Steve Haefele illustration
“My 25-foot Mako with a pair of 150s—a boat many considered the best in its day—cost me $19,000 brand-new.” Steve Haefele

I’ve been searching  for two seats and a console, but have been stuck in the wayback machine. What was once called a utility boat became a center-console in the 1960s. A blend of woven roving, mat and polyester resin, the center-console was a hand-rolled wonder. There were just a few brands, and if you can find one today, it’s likely on life support. I shared my obsession with a sales pal for a reality check. It didn’t help.

Bill is my vintage, and he shares my passion for center-consoles. He has two waterfront homes with docks, and keeps two seats and a console at each one. He buys them factory-fresh with full warranties and trades them in every few years like leased pickups. I think he’s lost count of the numbers.

While he claims his system works, the math bugs me. I understand the benefits of new boats, motors and warranties, but the prices—yikes. I’ve done my best to understand the modern markup, but it’s hopeless. I walked past a boat store just the other day and eyeballed a late-model, pre-loved, 30ish-foot example with a pair of supersize outboards. My ogling came to an end when I focused on the price tag pasted on its transom: just shy of $400,000.

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I called Bill to rant about the unfairness of it all. “My 25-foot Mako with a pair of 150s—a boat many considered the best in its day—cost me $19,000 brand-new, for God’s sake,” I groused. “I could have bought 20 of them for that kind of money.

“Its day was 1980,” Bill replied. “I hear this sort of thing all the time from experienced boaters.”

Ouch! In yacht-sales tongue, “experienced boater” is code.

“Yeah, I know,” I said. “I have more good days behind me than ahead of me, but that’s not the point.”

“Seriously, Coyle, when was the last time you bought a new boat?” he asked. “They’re not slathered together with a mop and a bucket of resin anymore. Today’s buyers insist on flawless finishes, high-tech materials, and plenty of horsepower and electronics.”

“Yes, yes, I know,” I told him. “They’re hard to miss. They’re everywhere.”

“You’re cheap, Coyle,” Bill said. I reminded him of the losses I’d suffered in past restorations. “It’s really not the money; it’s the value,” I insisted. “Classic center-consoles have a certain mystique. They’re different.”

I returned to the wayback machine and forwarded Bill my findings. “Take a look,” I said. “You don’t see one of these above water every day. It’s a rare ride.”

A few moments passed in silence. “Are you still there, Bill? Did you get it?”

“Yeah, I got it,” he said. “I get it, and I got one,” he admitted as he texted me an image of a small boat’s soggy remains.

It was the leftovers of a 20-foot Bertram center-console and…a cow? “It’s in a pasture in North Florida,” he said. “I bought it for $1,400 sight unseen. It just needs a bit of freshening up.”

Really? And I thought I had a problem.