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Con Job

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PMY has the largest circulation of any powerboat magazine. Every month about 148,000 anglers, weekend cruisers, bluewater voyagers, megayacht owners, and sundry boat nuts peruse our pages.

More than 90 percent own a powerboat, some two or three. Presumably the rest are temporarily boatless but important to us nonetheless.

Part of that last group includes penal institution inmates. It’s a tiny group; since I’ve been here, its number has stayed at around 25. They pay the subscription fee, renew like clockwork, and write to us—a lot. Their letters often reveal a surprising breadth of boating knowledge, posing questions and comments that delve into technical subjects. They’re also serious shoppers, having obviously studied boat types and brands. And they usually have a plan for that day when they vacate the slammer.

That plan always starts with buying a boat. How? Some haven’t gotten that far, but others apparently socked away a nest egg before they entered the joint. Take Dave. He first wrote to me in the late ‘90s soliciting recommendations for long-range cruisers between 80 and 90 feet. I was impressed by his boat knowledge—he asked all the right questions—but the return address betrayed him. Who puts a serial number after his name? But Dave persisted, and I figured, what the heck. If the guy wants to dream, why rain on his parade? Besides, I’ll chat with any boater.

So a correspondence ensued—a three-way one: me, Dave, and whoever censored his mail. (Each envelope was stamped with a notice that it had been opened and read.) I told Dave what I knew about boats and Dave told me about his cruising plans. I never asked him what he was in for or the length of his sentence, but he’d occasionally offer a tidbit suggesting his had been a white-collar offense, and sometimes he even hinted at having salted away enough cash to buy his boat and sail away forever.

Dave and I exchanged letters for maybe nine months and then, just like that, he stopped writing. Figuring he’d grown bored with the ruse, I didn’t pursue it. Then a year later, I got a postcard from Australia. No name, just these words: “I want you to know I finally made it. Thanks for all your help and advice. You recommended the right boat.”

I never knew if it was Dave, but I like to think it was.