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The American dream

The Florida Keys, circa 1960. This is the boater’s version of the American Dream. Dad has fired up the grill, and sister stands by looking stylish in her pedal pushers. The swim-suited youngsters are surf-casting, with the old Seven Mile Bridge in the background. And here comes the picnic basket.

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It all looks familiar today, but in postwar America, this was a new way to go boating. Economic prosperity had created a middle class with leisure time on their hands and money to spend. And boatbuilders were ready with new technologies and new designs to get people on the water.

The boat pictured here is a far cry from the double- and triple-cockpit mahogany runabouts of the 1940s. In those boats you climbed in, sat down and enjoyed the ride — rather like a Sunday drive in the family sedan. The new boats featured open layouts with room for a family to spread out, as well as space to stow picnic baskets and coolers, fishing rods, grills and water toys. It was more like a station wagon than a sedan.

Technology was playing a role, as well. Outboards were getting bigger. The sterndrive was gaining popularity. Fiberglass was taking over as the building material of choice. The ’60s saw a burst of production from established companies, in addition to scores of new builders getting in on the fiberglass bonanza.

The result: Americans took to the water in unprecedented numbers. Clubs and owners groups were created, and boat ownership rose through the decades. Our love affair with the water was just beginning.

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue.