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Durability Beats Fashion
By Barb Hansen
January 2, 2003

Economists say spending this holiday season was disappointing. They say we didn't spend enough at retail. I wonder if they even bothered to check our marine supply stores here in Fort Myers? Judging by the times Vic and I swiped our credit card, I'm pretty sure sales of marine items were very good.

Sorry, Saks. Too bad, Target.. The boats come first.

Isn't that the way it is for boaters? A boat rarely fails at the dock, so we take extra care to prevent failure while underway. Yes, a new bedspread for the home would look nice, but a new bilge pump is more important. A dining room table would be wonderful, but that dingy could save our lives. And then there's the dictum that demands that a boat be ready to cruise when you and the weather are ready for a cruise. Time on this planet is too short for us to miss any opportunity to be on the water.

Spending for the boat comes even before beauty treatments. The choice between caring for one's boat or caring for one's looks is no choice at all. Oiling the teak trumps whitening the teeth. Good looking brightwork beats Botox, Non-skid deck cleaner eclipses cosmetics.

Still, one is entitled to ask, why does boating equipment costs so much?

Actually, I know the answer to that. There is the economics-of-scale thing. If everybody needed bilge pumps, the suppliers could make more and the get the cost down. Some of the higher price is buried in the fact that when we really need something, and right now, we'll pay extra for it. But the main thing is, we ask a lot of our boats. Underway, our boats take a pounding. In the slip, UV light pounds away, too. So, if we want the things we buy for them to last, we boaters have learned to pay extra. We pay for durability, not fashion, because durability costs plenty all by itself.

Look at the bright side. Boating lets its people save money in other ways. Immersed in the boating lifestyle as we are, Vic and I discovered that we don't need to spend as much on clothes and shoes. Why do I need a new pair of Topsiders when the old ones look pretty good in their weather-beaten state and even better with a cleaning and liberal treatment of mink oil? Vic wears Sportifs in the office and on the boat, too. His Henri Lloyd foul weather gear is ready when he needs it. Why would he need Ralph Lauren, too? Clothes with labels that say "Dry clean only" stay on the store rack.

For most boaters, fashion means Bristol Fashion, which is just the opposite of the designer labels they sell at Neiman Marcus and Nordstorm. Bristol Fashion is the rule of good living that says your boat must be ship shape and ready to go at any time. The corollary to that law is spending for one's boat comes before spending for the home. Your home may be your castle, but your boat is your dream. No contest.

That's just the way it is and the way it should be. When your boat is in good order, your life's in good order.

Your boat asks a lot, but it gives a lot in return.

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Marinatown Marina 26° 38.5'N 81° 53.0'W
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