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Modern boating is better, say seniors

Survey of older boaters finds an appreciation for technological advances like air conditioning and autopilots

Survey of older boaters finds an appreciation for technological advances like air conditioning and autopilots

Were the good old days of recreational boating really that good? Yes and no.

Senior boaters prefer fiberglass over wood and such modern innovations as GPS, autopilots, radar and roller furling over the simpler technologies of yesteryear, according to an informal survey by Seaworthy, the damage avoidance newsletter from BoatU.S.

“One thing that became quickly apparent is that few older boaters pine for the good old days of wooden boats and clunky flathead engines,” Seaworthy editor Bob Adriance wrote in the October issue. “Quite the contrary, no one seems to appreciate the benefits of fiberglass more, and they don’t miss starting every season replacing planks, frames and fasteners. Modern innovation has made their boating better.”

Adriance, reached by telephone, says the survey stems from a previous article he wrote about an 80-year-old boater. At the end of the story, Adriance asked boaters older than 70 to write to him about their boating experiences. He then sent out a survey to those readers about their on-water experiences throughout the years. He says he received more than 100 replies. The respondents’ average age is 76, and most had been boating for more than 50 years. Of those surveyed, 80 percent spent 30 or more days per year on the water, and 60 percent said they voyage more than 100 miles from their home ports.

“This group is probably on the water more than any other demographic, and they really do have something to teach us,” says Adriance.

Other improvements of note were larger outboard engines, refrigeration, air conditioning, autopilots, more reliable engines, the Internet, Doppler radar, polymer paint, Dacron sails and bow thrusters. “All of these items weren’t available when today’s seniors started boating, which is remarkable,” says Adriance.

Another change noted by many seniors was the trend toward larger vessels and the increase in the number of boats on the water. “Many older boaters said that today’s boaters increasingly lack experience or are inconsiderate,” wrote Adriance. “They have noticed that more boaters today are ignorant of the rules of the road, and they feel that more education is needed.”

Respondents also commented on such issues as alcohol and boating, running inlets and maintenance — with some lessons to be learned along the way. A respondent who swung into a bank as he was attempting to change a burgee while sailing single-handed wrote, “What did I learn? Accident-free records are meant to be broken, and autopilots can help.”

Another respondent, quoted in a separate but related article in the magazine had this to offer: “My advice to young and old alike is just go boating and have fun, and don’t worry about falling overboard, sinking, etc.”

Seaworthy is distributed to all BoatU.S. insurance customers and is also available for $10 per year.