March 23, 2017

No, You Don't Get What You Pay For

I have resisted publishing this post for purely selfish reasons--I get paid for writing articles for boating magazines. Unfortunately, the dominate theme in almost every current publication, whether paper or digital, is how you can throw money at a problem (or a perceived problem) in order to make it go away. You know the shtick: 10 Ways to Make Some Simple Problem Go Away (each one costing $1000-$10,000); The Boat of the Year (how to spend $250K and up); or my favorite, The Latest Styles to Make You Look Like a Catalog Model!

I understand the problem. The Internet destroyed the advertising model that supported magazines for years, meaning all of them are chasing a vastly smaller pool of revenue that is determined solely by clicks. Plus, the boating industry was simply destroyed in the economic crash of 2007-2008 and has not recovered, meaning that advertising revenue has declined by 50-100% for most publications. However, I would argue that does not mean that the only route to survival is to suck up to your advertisers while insulting your readers.

OK, I am old and old school. I come from when people started small, learned how to fix up old boats, gradually worked their way up to coastal sailing and maybe local cruising, and then maybe purchased a bigger (but usually older) boat to sail off over the horizon. However, we all read books by the Pardeys ("go small, go now"), the Hiscock's (sail around the world on $5000), Bernard Moitessier (just do it), or the Roths (fix your small boat yourself on the beach in Patagonia). That stuff isn't even mentioned today and most of those books are out of print.

Today, you read about how to purchase your first 45-foot yacht for "only" $500k, but be sure not to leave harbor until you have installed $50K in electronics and $50K in safety equipment and $50K in gew gaws to make life afloat just like living in Trump Tower. Gold plated seacocks are the best!

I am reminded of a super catamaran I got to inspect at the dock--brand new, from a top designer, with nothing but the best equipment with no expense spared. I marveled at the quality of everything, but the boat wasn't going anywhere until the networked systems were fixed. I spoke to the technician who was totally baffled by why nothing was working properly. Yes, he had all the wiring diagrams. Yes, all the equipment was installed per spec. Yes, the owner was spending $1000 or so per day to have technicians crawl all over the boat.

I instead went off sailing on my old boat, cruising the coast of Maine, only to read later about this boat's ongoing problems that prevented its departure on the planned world cruise. Sure, my boat didn't have wind instruments networked with the depthsounder and the holding tank monitor, but I was enjoying the boat and off Downeast instead of tied to a dock with invoice writers crawling all around.

My point is that you can be anchored in a gorgeous spot in Maine, the Bahamas, Tonga, or the Mediterranean, enjoying the sunset after a fascinating day ashore, or you can be tied up in a marina paying bills for technicians to try and figure out why the chartplotter thinks your boat is in Kansas. Don't be that boater anchored in Kansas!