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Reminiscing About Sold Boats

Sometimes it's difficult to tell when it's the right time to sell a boat.

Steve Haefele illustration
“What have I done, Coyle? She was perfect. I didn’t need a new boat. I had the perfect boat.” Steve Haefele

A pal of mine was pining recently after peddling his ride for a premium in boating’s booming seller’s market. Now he’s stranded on the hard, waiting for a new sled—a slave to the sluggish supply chain. “What have I done, Coyle?” he complained. “She was perfect. I didn’t need a new boat. I had the perfect boat.”

I counseled patience.

If you are thinking about investing in a new ride, you’re a bit late to the dance. The marine industry’s shelves are bare. Cleared of inventory since the pandemic began, dealers and builders are struggling to keep up with demand. Sales pals and industry numbers suggest that the surge has been driven in large part by first-time buyers.

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“Newbie boaters haven’t been this motivated since Noah whacked out the ark with an adz,” a pal in new boat sales told me. “They’re buying anything that floats.”

I’ve kept an eye on the market for something new since I parted with my 37 Bertram convertible. It had been my perfect boat for 22 years. In a weak-minded moment, I agreed to sell it to a nice young fellow who was taking a big step up into a diesel inboard. I was actually surprised when the check cleared as I’d attempted to scare him off with reason. I had carefully detailed the commitment (read: cash) it would extort from him annually, and I’d warned that it’d become a stubborn taskmaster in its old age.

The pain of this loss only grew as the bounce that the sale put into my bank balance fizzled and new-boat prices soared. A few years had passed when a broker pal called, offering to reunite me with my lost love.

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“Coyle, your boat is for sale,” he said. “Think of the years of memories you and your family have invested in her. You know she belongs at your dock.”

Read more from Jay Coyle: Tell Tales

Apparently, the boat had drained the wallet of the young fellow who had taken responsibility for its support. Unfortunately, a sobering review of the old yard bills made me  hesitate, and it was adopted by another dreamer.

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That was a close one. I’d fallen for an old flame once before. In an odd spite, I’d adopted the soured remains of a New England catboat I’d sworn to master since I’d served as “naval architect,” grinding fiberglass in the boatyard where it was born. A few years on, my passion and wallet were exhausted, and I’d peddled the boat to a bored dentist dreaming of the sea. The vessel became a cavity for cash that he couldn’t fill, and in a wine-infused holiday depression, I agreed to buy back the boat. Then, it left me for good. I can’t say I really miss it. But the Bertram?

Like my pining pal, I realize that finding the perfect boat is not so easy. In this market, it’s almost impossible. But perhaps with patience, it can be done.

“You and I are serial boat nuts and know what to expect when the yard bill arrives,” I told my pal. “I suspect not all newbie boaters do. I’m keeping my eye out. If I see my old flame, I might just open my heart and my checkbook—again.”  

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