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Lead Line - April 2002 - Home Sweet Home
Lead Line — April 2002
By Richard Thiel

Home Sweet Home
People are tired of waiting for tomorrow.
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It’s always risky announcing that you’ve spotted a trend, and it’s a wise man–or one mindful of his image–who waits until the bandwagon is half full before jumping aboard. Nevertheless, I am told that spotting trends is part of what they pay me to do here, so after carefully perusing the landscape, I can say I think I’ve spotted one.

What I sense is that for an increasing number of people, recreational boating has taken on a new meaning. It’s no longer just the means for having fun on the water or affirming one’s success. For a lot of Americans, boating has become the means by which they have rediscovered some basic values. Over the last seven months, boats have become for many people the only way to escape an increasingly frightening and often crazy world by drawing around them the people they love and cherish and going somewhere private. Boats are becoming refuges.

Lord knows we could use them. Daily we witness threats to our security the likes of which we never dreamed. Tragedy has become frighteningly random and brutality incomprehensibly pointless. Anyone who reads a paper or watches television cannot help but be struck by the fragility and evanescence of life. We are constantly reminded that life is precious, and like everything precious, it can be stolen without warning. Boating, I think, is providing not only an escape from such pervasive anxiety, but perhaps more important, also providing a safe haven where people can congregate, commingle, and connect on a deep and personal level.

Two things have led me to this conclusion: boat show attendance and boat sales. As I write this, I am told that attendance at the fall and winter boat shows has been flat, although my sense is that it is actually down. That’s not terribly surprising given the fact that we’re in a recession. Yet sales of larger boats have been surprisingly strong and in some cases shockingly good. Take January’s New York National Boat Show. Attendance was reportedly up slightly, but in the midst of what may turn out to be the depths of the recession, boats sales were way up. According to the show’s management, Silverton reported its best New York Boat Show in 34 years, and Surfside 3, the local Sea Ray dealer, reported selling 206 boats. Likewise a representative of The Sunseeker Club at Castaways, the local Sunseeker dealer, reportedly characterized sales as "exceeding all our expectations." I’ve confirmed this myself to varying degrees in speaking with dealers and manufacturers at shows in Norwalk, Fort Lauderdale, and London.

In a time when car makers were forced to offer no-interest financing to keep their heads above water, boats–even expensive ones–were selling briskly. And every dealer and builder I spoke to offered the same reason: People are tired of waiting for tomorrow. They are realizing what is really important, and it isn’t their career or a bigger, newer SUV. It is the desire to experience the love and companionship of friends and acquaintances now, while they still can.

We all yearn for a return to the days when we could conduct our lives free of the threat of random violence. Some say they will never return, that we have crossed some cultural Rubicon and must learn to live with pat-downs, metal detectors, and shoe searches. Regardless of whether that is true, we will hopefully always carry with us the belief that among life’s pleasures great and small, none can match that of spending time with people you care about and who care about you. And arguably, nowhere is that pleasure more rewarding than on the water.

This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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