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Wisdom and Change

I don’t know how much anyone still studies classical mythology, but some of those timeless tales have stuck with me. As I’ve grown older, and I’d like to think wiser, the meanings of the stories I remember have changed and evolved. One in particular is the story of the birth of the Roman goddess Minerva—known to the Greeks as Athena—who sprang from the head of her father, Jupiter (Zeus), fully formed as an adult. Now if that’s not a metaphor for an idea, if a clunky one, then I’ll eat my hat.

Jason Y. Wood
This is how we remember the details—taking notes on a recent test.

Minerva was, among other things, the goddess of wisdom. As I’ve aged I’d like to think I’ve become more appreciative of good ideas, and understand how rarely the fully formed ones show themselves. Indeed, the process of getting to the good ideas would seem more like real childbirth and rearing: painful, a bit messy, and time-consuming.

And that’s just the idea. Then comes the next challenge—acting upon the concept and accomplishing something. Which is what usually comes to mind when I speak to and e-mail back and forth with boatbuilders, boaters, and yacht brokers.

From engaged boatbuilders I get the sense that the boats out there are the result of an unwavering march forward. The learning, tweaking, and problem-solving that go into each new model—and in the case of some recent builds, each successive hull—show both the desire and the ability to create something lasting.

For me all of this has been made especially real by the three motoryachts I’ve had the good fortune to test over the last five weeks. Here are boats ranging from 54 to 64 feet in size, all with the same general design mission: Take boater, family, and guests to sea safely, comfortably, and with reasonable efficiency. All three met that goal head-on and will probably succeed provided they end up with the right owner. And yet all three go about their missions in entirely different ways—whether it’s variations in propulsion, number of staterooms, crew’s quarters, galley location, overall profile and running attitude, or whatever. In all sorts of ways, these three yachts couldn’t be more different from each other. 

So there’s plenty to think about if you’re planning on buying a boat, and it probably gets more challenging as decisions begin to take your search down narrowing  paths and the differences get more and more subtle. What is it that drives your ideas about your next boat when you get down to it? I’ll bet it’s not change for the sake of change, although if it is, I’d like to know about it.

When do you decide you need to get something new? If every boat is really a compromise on some level, then the idea of the next boat must signal a change in the terms of the meet-in-the-middle agreement you came to when you decided to buy your last boat. If the boat hasn’t changed, then maybe it’s you.

Then there are the brokers, who have learned to look at your last boat as someone else’s next boat. From their perspective, the terms of the compromise haven’t changed within the envelope of that hull. It’s just that they must now fit with someone else’s needs. The good brokers get to know a bit of what you’re about, whether they’re helping you look for your next boat, selling your current boat, or both. And in the brokerage market, how well a boat will meet the criteria of the next boater seems to set the price.

Ah, price—economics always enters the equation. Some would say it is the equation, but I wholeheartedly disagree with that. We need our boats, and we need to use them, and enjoy them with friends and family, and keep them up, and make the occasional improvement, and look at them swinging on an anchor in a remote cove or tied up in a slip and feel that tug at our hearts.

When it’s time for an upgrade, we look at the choices at hand through the lens of how our use of time on the water has evolved, and get excited to try something new and maybe a bit different. Now that’s an idea whose time has come.

And for what it’s worth, I think Minerva would be a great name for a boat.