December 2017 Sightlines

Our Sightlines columnist Michael Peters has some definite opinions on how boating got more sexy, and how the sport continues to evolve.
By Michael Peters ,

End of an Era

Cruising through the years with Hef.

Sex certainly doesn’t come new to boating. History tells us that Mark Antony was setting the rhythm for the oarsmen aboard Cleopatra’s barge as far back as 41 B.C. By the 1930s, Hollywood bad boys like Errol Flynn were having trysts aboard his yacht Sirocco and Howard Hughes was bedding young starlets offshore aboard his yacht Southern Cross.

Boating as a national sport didn’t really go through puberty until Hugh Hefner’s introduction of Playboy magazine in 1953. The great appeal of a boat as a sexual venue wasn’t openly realized until the sexual revolution of the 1960s. By the time that decade rolled along hot boats were being promoted by busty, bikini-clad girls on the cover of West Coast boating magazines and Don Aronow had introduced his aptly named 35-foot Cigarette Mistress in Miami. By the mid-1970s, even Riva catalogs featured naked women.

When I started designing for Cigarette in the late 1970s, my 50-year-old boss’s wife would lean over my drafting table with her ample bosom and say, “Remember, think sex.” A cougar if ever there was one, she knew what the boats were all about. During the same time period our Miami-based advertising agency came up with a magazine ad showing a sexy young woman dressed in a man’s night shirt whispering, “Does this mean I get to ride in your Cigarette?” The innuendo-laced slogan received several advertising awards and helped usher in an era of sexy, fast boats as part of the playboy lifestyle.

The long, lean, and fast Cigarette boats were the epitome of the boating phallic symbol and there was no pretending what they were seeking. With small forward beds that no one was intended to sleep on, known as “stabbin’ cabins,” and more pointedly named aft cushions called “sex pads,” boating had reached full sexual maturity and there was no hiding it. These boats were meant to attract half-naked girls and lots of them.

The following several decades gave us fast boats overflowing with ‘T’ backs and fake boobs. A really classy period of yachting that will perhaps be remembered as a low point for our industry, but it was fun! The boat as phallic symbol struggles on in a few hot-boat circles today, but overall the genre has died a slow, timely death.

Gone for the most part are the Cigarettes, Magnums, and Fountains, as the playboys of the 1980s and 1990s have grown up, married and had kids, while joining a more PC world. Much of the popularity of these boats fell at the same time the Playboy empire itself collapsed and became irrelevant. As goes society, so go the fortunes of the boating industry. Over the top, brag about it, yell it from the deck of your boat sex is out; just look at today’s headlines.

The recent passing of Hugh Hefner marked the end of an era whose time had already run out, but as Jimmy Kimmel said, “Hefner was the first person ever disappointed by heaven.” He really wasn’t a bad guy, just a guy who liked women more than most of us. Not to say we didn’t try to keep up with him aboard our fast, sleek, waterborne sex machines—at the height of the sexual revolution—but nobody got lucky more often than Hef, with or without a boat.

This article originally appeared in the December 2017 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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