A couple of years ago I decided I needed a hobby and it occurred to me it might be fun to own a boat so I went down to the boat store to look 'em over.
One of 'em caught my eye right away. It was a trim little craft thirty-six feet long and capable of sleeping eight or so people depending on how big the people were. It had sails and a nifty cabin and even a full-sized pool table in the rec room. It was just what I wanted and I called a salesman over to inquire about it.
"Oh, you're in luck," he said. "This baby is on sale this week. Only $198,000 and we throw in life jackets for free."
He apparently misunderstood the question so I tried again.
"No, I don't want to buy all the boats; just this one
"That's how much this one is," he said. "It's a 36-footer, you know."
"But that comes to $6,000 a foot!" I protested
"Yeah," he said, "that's the going rate."
So I lowered my sights a bit and settled on a $900 rowboat-and that's when I began to learn the true costs of owning a boat. By the time I bought a trailer to haul it around and oars to make the thing go, laid in a supply of fuel, picked up some sails, paid docking fees, bought marine insurance, and contracted for general maintenance I'd spent over eight grand!
I later learned that everything associated with water costs triple what it would for something used on dry land. A 1/2inch hawser, for example, costs about a $1.00 a foot at Home Depot while the very same rope costs $3.50 a foot in a boating supply store. A ten-inch frying pan for your kitchen runs maybe $14 at Sears and $47.50 if it's for your boat's galley. You could lie, of course, and say it's for your kitchen but that would negate your docking lease if they found out.
Well, once word got out that I'd bought a boat I enjoyed a new-found popularity amongst not only my friends but even the most casual acquaintances. Everybody wanted to go boating. They'd show up in jaunty sailors' caps and blue blazers and sneakers and clamber about the fo'c's'le holding glasses of white wine, eating Brie, and striking poses reminiscent of Bill Buckley on Massachusetts Bay.
None of 'em ever thought to help haul in the anchor or set a mainsail, though. And they were never around when the hull needed half-a-ton of barnacles scraped off it or the engines needed overhauling. After all, they were guests and one doesn't ask one's guests to lend a hand with the dirty work.
They also expected me to provide the wine and Brie, of course, and they were always preoccupied with the sunset or something when I pulled in to take on $600 worth of diesel fuel. In fact, none of 'em ever laid out a dime for expenses or lifted a hand to keep the craft afloat.
Another rueful lesson learned. This was the norm in the sailing world, one practiced in ports of call all the way back to the first guy in a dugout canoe. Friends all assume a boat owner has lots of money or how could he afford to own a boat in the first place? Still, the real reason is that boat guests are always cheapskates and always forget to bring their wallets.
It wasn't long before I realized these freeloaders were ruining me and I resolved to put a stop to it. I announced the craft was in dry dock for needed repairs and would be laid up indefinitely. There would be no more moonlight cruises, no dancing under the stars or water skiing or lazy afternoons in quiet coves or dockside parties until further notice.
It worked. I found myself sans friends overnight; my time was my own again. The boat was up on sawhorses behind the port office and I could sit in it wearing my nautical cap, sip Brie, and play sailor whenever I wanted to. Still, the dock fees and other costs continued apace and the drain on my wallet eventually forced me to unload the boat.
I finally sold it for $45 (I willingly took the loss) and later heard the guy who bought it went bankrupt trying to keep it up. He's a derelict now and can be seen hanging around the docks telling wild tales about his days when he was master of his own ship and a man to be reckoned with.
But I still liked boating and was reluctant to give it up altogether so I became a freeloader myself. I befriended another boat owner, bought myself a blue blazer and some sneakers, mounted one of those jaunty sailors' hats on my head, and became a familiar sight on the docks once again.
I now sip wine and eat Brie and live the nautical life without ever doing anything nautical except loitering on the fo'c's'le. Believe me, it's the only way to truly enjoy boating.