I’ve been mucking around in boats for a good while now. A West Wright Potter was the object of my affection in my 12th year. Bought for $200 from a family friend, I faithfully restored it that summer. Chugging away, having no idea what I was doing; my boyhood friends at my side. In those days imagination occupied three quarters of reality and what a bliss it was. My affair with boats continued: A Macgregor 23, then a Catalina 27.
As the years passed, I noticed what had been a group effort in the early days was turning into a solitary one. My days were spent alone in various fiberglass hulls scraping and sanding away. I had no colleagues across town restoring their own boats. That was ok though, the likes of Robin Lee Graham were also solo sailors. I reasoned this was just how it was.
My current affair with sailing is now into its 4th year. I’ve hung around a boat yard for a few years refitting my current boat, a Tayana 37. In all that time I’ve only met one other person my age that was restoring a Spindrift 42. That boat is still on the hard and I haven’t seen it worked on yet this year. I’ve attended 4 boat shows, crewed in a rally and scoured the internet looking for compatriots for the cause. I’ve found a few and I’m glad there is some semblance of a younger generation of sailor out there, however these examples are few and far between.
So why? Where have all the young cruisers gone? Is it because the boats are too expensive? I would think not, the used fiberglass boat market is still in the tank. I was able to purchase my boat for a meer $22,000, a fraction of what even the materials for the hull would cost! (Also less than many new cars everyone around me seems to be buying) I’ve put a bunch of money into it but thats only because I’ve had the means. A refit could have been done for much less. In fact, the barrier to entry right now is lower than its probably ever been. In the heyday of cruising the available stock of solid cruising boats was way smaller, yet more younger people were out plying the oceans of the world.
So if the used boat market is not the problem, what else could it be? Maybe the costs of keeping a boat are too high? On the contrary, in Baltimore the market for slips is extremely reasonable for the prospective boat owner. Here’s an ad for a 35′ slip for sale in baltimore for $9,500! I rented a 50′ slip last year for $220 a month at this same marina. Moreover, the marina I refit Satori in has slips for around $2,000 a year, including winter hall out and blocking. I can’t speak for everywhere, but prices to keep boats in the Baltimore area right now are extremely competitive.
But maybe it doesn’t have to do with money at all. You can’t drive a boat to your office, you cant hang a boat on a wall and play netflix on it, and you certainly cannot wear a boat out to the bars. Maybe the real reason there is such a lull in young cruisers these days is because mucking about in boats does not help one up the rat infested ladder to whatever socioeconomic goal that has been seared into their brain by plasma and liquid crystal displays.
At the risk of sounding like ranting lunatic I’ll get off my horse for a second. Maybe young people just don’t know how accessible cruising is? Or perhaps its just not cool to go sailing these days. Whatever the cause, the opportunity has arrived for a new generation of cruising sailors to pick up where the Pardeys, Street, Roth and others have left off. So who’s with me?