Boating and The Economy

by Kathy Coogan

I was taught a lesson about the economy while reading Yachting Magazine. Yachting Magazine, you scoff? Yes indeed. This superb, glossy magazine for dreamers reminded me of how the economy works.

My husband has always loved boats. He finds serenity on the water. River, lake or ocean - it doesn’t matter. Bodies of water have a calming effect on this Type A personality. And when he can’t be on the water, he dreams about it via subscriptions to boating magazines.

On snowy nights when the wind rattles the windows, he sits in front of the fire and thumbs through whatever magazine is on the top of the stack. And when he dreams, he dreams big. Multi-million dollar crafts, like sugar plums, dance in his head.

The boats we’ve owned in the last forty years have never gone past five digits after the dollar sign. We have spent winters in boat barns, scraping, painting and varnishing. We have spent summers on cruisers and runabouts. We even lived on a houseboat when I was pregnant thirty-six years ago.

I have a picture of my nine-months-pregnant self, standing next to a boat trailer which was hauling our boat from the river to winter storage. I am pointing to myself with one hand and to a warning sign on the trailer with the other. The sign read, Wide Load!

But back to Yachting Magazine. In the August, 2012 issue the editor, Mary South, wrote an essay about the boating industry. This is a poignant story that needed to be told, especially as the “rich” and the “poor” are being cast, by some, as enemies. The title was Dream Bigger.

This is not a good time for the boating industry. Large manufacturers are going out of business - large manufacturers who employ lots of people. The little guys are struggling, too. All along the coasts from Maine to Florida, from Washington to California, there are small boat yards, which are the foundation of their coastal economy.

Many are second or third generation. Many, in good times, craft one magnificent boat a year, keeping busy different skilled, local craftsmen, providing them with a good quality of life. Many repair and maintain small, hardy vessels which are used for work and pleasure. Now, with the stagnant economy, many of those boat yards are idle and their employees are struggling.

There are those who might look at Yachting Magazine and condemn the extravagance of the vessels. There are those who believe that if everyone can’t own a yacht, no one should. Those shallow souls forget that these majestic boats are designed and built by hard-working, proud individuals for other hard-working, proud individuals. In this brotherhood of boating, each needs and values the other.

Mary South suggests that if she wins the lottery, she will order at least one, maybe two, of the biggest trawlers, sports-fishermen, racing sailboats or even super-yachts to help to keep the boating business and its multi-generational workers afloat. In addition to a new subscription to Yachting Magazine, I’m going to buy my husband a lottery ticket or two, as my tiny contribution to keeping his dreams afloat.

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