If the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys, then we big boys are certainly keeping up our end of the bargain in the 2020s.
Walk any decent boat show and you can’t help but notice that bigger and bigger boats are being designed and used for shorter outings, across the fleet from 30 feet on up. Where is this trend headed? First, some background.
In the 1980s and ‘90s, a 33-foot powerboat was likely to be an aft-cabin cruiser with two staterooms, two heads and a dinghy. Their owners had kids and they’d spend every living weekend of their boating season on board. They’d put sheets on the bunks and sleep overnight. They’d cruise for days and sometimes weeks at a time, for God’s sake!
Today, a typical 33-footer is an open-bow, multi-purpose tool with zero staterooms, an outdoor galley and never a dinghy. The boat gets used hard, sure. Lots of wakeboarding, sun-tanning, day drinking and loud music. Nothing wrong with that. And at the end of the day the multi-tool is dragged back up on its trailer behind a Denali XL or hoisted up on the lift in front of the house. It doesn’t sleep, cruise or shower. But enough people can afford to spend a quarter million on a day-boat that most builders in this segment are back-ordered for a year and a half.
When the Berlin Wall fell, a typical 48-footer was a serious battlewagon or an imposing motoryacht with three staterooms and heavy, turbo’d Detroit Diesels. Thirty knots was fast for the convertibles and unheard of for the motoryachts. Their owners ran to the Bahamas for long weekends full of bluewater fishing or cruised from the Chesapeake to Key West and back, often living aboard for months.
But today’s trendiest 48-footers are center consoles with four outboards, deep walk-around decks from which to fish away from said line cutters and shaded, open-air lounges from bow to stern. Two people can sleep on a converted dinette table in a small cabin forward of the helm, but they won’t. And if the boat doesn’t hit 50 knots, don’t bother. But enough people can afford to spend a million dollars on a center console they’ll use for mere hours at a time that you are guaranteed to see bigger and bigger walkarounds at every new boat show for the next five years.
Before Cyndi Lauper was appearing in psoriasis commercials, a typical 80 footer … wasn’t. There were few production 80-footers then, and they were almost exclusively Hatterases of the stretch limo variety or one of a few Italian brands plying our shores.
Today, a typical 80-footer in the United States is either an American convertible or a busily styled Euro-coupe. No matter, they both hit 40 knots even at their hefty 150,000-pound weights. The convertible owners fish for fun and money, and the Pershing guys just run friends and clients past the Chicago and New York City skylines at 11 p.m. on a Tuesday. If the latter sleep on the boat, it likely wasn’t the plan in the morning. But enough people can afford to spend $7 million on a boat they’ll use for a day at a time, like their ancestors did with 24-foot Sea Ray Sundancers, that you will see more of these soon from builders you’ve never heard of yet.
So, where is this all going?
Our big-boy toys will keep getting bigger and better. The era of the day-superyacht may be on the horizon. Perhaps the advent of shadow vessels, those 120-footers stuffed with tenders and submarines that accompany the real yacht, presages this. Chopper in, drop head first onto the inflatable slide, rip around on the Cigarette and play some ping-pong. Don’t pack a bag because you’re not staying the night. You’ll be in a G-Wagen to a club in South Beach by midnight.
Something goes missing from the boating experience if you don’t wake up on the same boat in different places, though. Call me old fashioned, but when I finish this sentence I’m going cruising with my family and the dog, enjoying sunsets and starry nights.