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Best Advice Ever

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Jason Y. Wood

When you spend as much time talking with experienced, knowledgable people about boats, electronics, engines, places to go, new equipment to check out, and great sea stories, you’re bound to happen upon some advice along the way. Just like with anything important, boat decisions are personal and not always simple due to factors that not everyone would know about, let alone understand. So the wisdom imparted to us doesn’t always jibe with the direction we feel we need to go.

On the plus side, I’ve had some smart people give me advice along the way. Even when I don’t act on it, I am undoubtedly better for the conversation: For one thing, if I didn’t learn anything about the question at hand, at the very least I’ve had a lesson in how to give advice, chiefly not to react badly when it is not followed to the letter.

Much of the counsel I’ve received, wise and otherwise, ranges into the minefield of answering the question What do you think I should do? even though I never asked. The resulting guidance runs the proverbial scale from zero to whatever lies at the far end, opposite of zero.

Here are some actual examples of advice I’ve received lately (with the sources remaining nameless of course) regarding the topic of buying an old wooden powerboat:

“Do it.”

“Pull the trigger.”

“What do you want to do that for?”

There would seem to be a touch of the shared experience in each example, and also, I think, a bit of the sadism that runs through all of us at varying depths.

Now, because of my job, I’m also in the enviable position of sometimes being asked for my advice, which I generally give wholeheartedly and unabashedly, and always with a kind of rider attached to it that absolves me of any responsibility for the result, no matter how terrifically or terribly it goes.

A good friend of mine was on the hunt for his next boat and he asked me a bunch of questions seemingly every day, mostly by text message. He was so all over the map regarding boat type and size that I found I was questioning his motivation (to myself) and thought he maybe lacked the focus I’ve always considered a must in hunting up a good deal. Shows what I know: The next day he had the thing bought (or one of ’em anyway)—at a great price—and had taken the direction of his questions to refitting electronics, thoughts on the interior, what to do about that transom seat, and other projects. Turns out he knew the most important aspect about getting advice: Don’t wait for someone to say what you want to hear.

But sometimes even I enter the fray voluntarily—yes I give unsolicited advice too! Recently, one friend asked me what I thought about a similar boat to what he owned already, which prompted me to ask, “Are you looking to make a change?”

His answer and brief explanation opened a floodgate of opinion I never really knew I had on the subject. Fortunately this guy has always been much more savvy than I, even at a young age, and he always has his ducks in a row. The result through the years has been that I find myself surprised to see him on a different boat than I thought he had, and sometimes even catch him at the tiller of a racing sailboat now and again.

I’m curious about your boat advice. Do you give as good as you get? Do you consider the source topic by topic? Or do you grant equal weight to all opinions? How has your ability to take counsel changed as you’ve aged? I find I like to hear opinions, and the explication that undergirds them, even if I consider the premise to be out of left field.

So I’m asking for your advice, both given and received. Shoot me a note and let me know the best advice you ever got regarding boats and why it worked for you. Or if you’re more into giving advice, I’m all ears there too: Send it along to me at See you on the water.