Uncharted Waters: Advice on Advice

Tips on what to do when a boat-shopping friend asks, “Whataya think about this one?”

Tips on what to do when a boat-shopping friend asks, “Whataya think about this one?”

Illustration: Kent Barton

Boat buyers come in many shapes, sizes and types, but here, on this particular page—as a public service—I’m going to deal exclusively with the deeply depraved, bug-eyed, laser-focused variety. They are, after all, not only a threat to themselves, but a threat to others as well. I should know. I myself was once a card-carrying member of the bug-eyed band, wildly carousing websites and scouring marinas, boatyards and marine publications in search of one “perfect boat” after another. Then, as my ardor cooled a bit in more recent years, I slowly but steadily morphed into—I’m loath to admit—a wholly codependent advisor to the dicey crowd, seldom caring whether it was a confidant they wanted, a consultant, or even, upon occasion, a sneaky co-conspirator.

Thank goodness things are different today. All the madness, the insanity, I’m happy to report, has finally drawn to a peaceful, comfortable close. It’s done with. Kaput! I’ve learned my lessons. No more carousing and scouring for me—I’m totally content with what I’ve got, the good ol’ Betty Jane II. Shoot, I haven’t ogled an internet brokerage site for months now. Months! Or at least weeks.

And as for dispensing injudicious advice, whether offhand or meddlesome? That’s at an end too. Never again will I blithely sanction the purchase of some, sad, butt-ugly center console with a brand name nobody’s ever heard of. Or give some benighted, starry-eyed, true-believer a smile of compassionate affirmation, as if to say, “Yeah, you’re right, buddy—that old tugboat looks like one helluva bargain.” Or vaguely suggest, with forefinger raised prophetically, that perhaps this particular dreamboat—yes, the very one now gracing your computer screen—will perhaps, with time, significantly appreciate in value.

Of course, changed men, like yours truly, often get a tad pompous and overbearing as they slide into their dotage. But not me. The advice I give to boat buyers these days is not only humble, it’s absolutely harmless and confusing, even incomprehensible. Indeed, I’ve even codified a set of four, trusty, advice-giving rules that keep me—or anyone for that matter—out of harm’s way whenever a friend, acquaintance or (heaven forbid) relative pops the ineffable question, “Whataya think about this boat?” Here they are:

First up, be very wary! Boat buyers tend to get devious and manipulative if their financing starts to falter. A request for advice may hide an altogether different agenda underneath. Is this a harsh criticism? When moolah was tight back in the day, I must confess, I was not personally averse to putting the bite on some malleable, unsuspecting soul in order to cover a last-minute down payment. Just sayin’.

Second, when under pressure, shift responsibility! Let’s say you’re trapped into a walk-through of a prospective purchase, and at some point, you sense the need to offer a shrewd opinion. Simply start out evasively and then toss somebody else under the bus. “Well yeah,” you might opine, for example, “I guess that engine is okay, but who knows? Who really knows? Why not get a mechanic to check ‘er out?”

Third, avoid romantic entanglements like the plague. Let’s face it—there’s often a significant other of some sort involved in a maritime acquisition. And whether she, he, or they be totally on board with the festivities is often uncertain. So, if constrained to give advice to a couple, stay especially noncommittal, obscure and perplexing. Else, you could find yourself dodging boathooks in a dire, dockside version of As the Propeller Turns.

And then fourth and finally, there’s the “hmmmm thing.” Sooner or later, the chips are gonna be down and you’re gonna be completely ensnared by some poor devil’s need for your assurance and guidance. Don’t worry—it happens to the best of us. But the fix is easier than you’d think. Just answer the questions and comments that inevitably arise with “Hmmmm, interesting idea,” again and again and again. Sooner or later, your tormentor will relent and decide to hit somebody else up for words of wisdom.

This article originally appeared in the January 2023 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

Source: https://www.powerandmotoryacht.com/column/uncharted-waters-advice-on-advice