While my family and I were on summer vacation in Barnstable, Mass., on Cape Cod, I had the pleasure of encountering a veritable smorgasbord of recreational boats. On display from Pleasant Bay to the Cape Cod Canal, they were by turns provocative, charming and inspiring. Seeing them set me to musing about the evolution of boating as a sport. Boats I saw recently on Lake Champlain and that I noted in England also came to mind.
Time was, you brought the family yacht alongside the dock and shipped the oars or doused the sails. Then people started putting engines in boats, mostly 2- to 3-hp one-lungers that moved you around at rowing speed — without the oars and sore back. Larger engines followed, and eventually they were light enough and powerful enough to get a boat up on plane, at which point hulls began changing shape to accommodate them. But safe docking was still very much a manual affair that required judicious use of the wheel, throttle and gearshift. And when the inevitable mistakes happened, there was plenty of entertainment for slip neighbors.
Of all the boat shows I attend each year, which sometimes is as many as eight, from Toronto to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., the Maine Boatbuilders Show each March at the Portland Company Marine Complex stands apart for a number of reasons.
As fuel prices continue to rise and potential new-boat buyers watch every penny, it's no surprise that savvy boatbuilders have come up with designs that offer fuel efficiency and comfort in packages that likely will succeed in today's marketplace.
All boats involve trade-offs - knowing what they are will help you make an informed decision
During more than 20 years spent testing and evaluating boats, a number of observations consistently emerge as I conduct dockside inspections and sea trials. Let's have a look at what I've observed in three key areas: ride vs. efficiency, seaworthiness vs. space and visibility at the helm.
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