If you are one of the boaters who attended the recent Bay Bridge Boat Show with the goal of buying your very first boat or upgrading to your next boat, you definitely need to read further. If you are not in a committed relationship where you are bound financially, your only decisions will be the normal things such as size, make, engine, sail plan, price range, color, etc. to make your dream a reality. The above decisions are sometimes difficult, but pale in comparison with those of us in a committed relationship where finances are mutual. Not only do we have to make the above decisions, but we must convince our significant others that all the choices we have made are the “correct ones.” So, if you have marriage plans in your future, don’t waste your time reading any further, you are good to go, and know that those of us on the other side of the fence are extremely envious. 

how to buy a boat
If you're in a commited relationship, these tips will help you convince your partner to allow you to buy a boat.

Those of us that are passionate about boating and happened to be married know that this can be the most difficult hurdle to overcome in a boat-buying decision. I’ve been married for 48 years to date and “we” have owned 49 different boats. Before you start giving me high fives for my supposed “gift,” know that I have failed twice as many times in my attempts to convince my wife about buying a different boat, a fact that I am not proud of. The following are strategies that I’ve found effective over the years on how to convince your spouse into buying a boat. I am old enough now that I wouldn’t want this valuable wisdom to be lost for the future generation of boaters in the event that I cross over the bar prematurely! 

Arguments for your partner:

This boat is a gift for you. 

This approach is a slam dunk if you are brave enough to buy the boat without them knowing! Consulting them ahead of time immediately puts your spouse in charge of all the decisions. They could love a model that you aren’t crazy about, which doesn’t sound so bad if you think that means you are buying the Sea Ray instead of the Chaparral. You might be surprised when you learn that instead of buying your beloved Chaparral Express cruiser, you have signed on to buying a 40-foot Leopard catamaran sailboat.

This boat will ride better. 

This trick (I mean approach!) is especially useful for those of us that like small powerboats. There is nothing that gets your spouse to agree into purchasing a bigger boat more quickly then when they are bouncing their guts out on a trip to your favorite waterfront restaurant. Even a small boat driven appropriately will ride reasonably well in rough conditions. However, a good captain can make a good boat appear otherwise by selecting a particularly large cabin cruiser wake and hitting it at full speed or by choosing a day when it’s blowing 15 mph against an outgoing tide and running the 17-foot boat at three-fourths throttle into the three-foot waves for the one-hour trip. (This is a highly effective strategy but beware not to overdo it! The bigger boat they might want might not be in your budget.)

how to buy a boat
Want to see that 'sold' sign? Tell them "this boat will ride better."

This boat will save us money. 

While this statement seems like an oxymoron, it might actually be true. If you currently own a 1977 35-foot sailboat that needs a new engine, set of sails, and standing rigging, it may be cheaper to sell it and move to a newer boat that doesn’t need those items replaced. In the case of a powerboat, it is quite reasonable to get a newer boat that burns two gallons less fuel per hour. Do not use this sales pitch if your spouse is an accountant! They will quickly calculate that spending $50,000 on a new boat because you can save $7.50/hr will take over 88 years to break even if gas costs $3.75/gal and you run the boat 75 hours/season…

Our boat is too big for me to handle. 

Playing on your spouse’s emotions is a risky proposition unless you are positive that they still love you as much as when you first got married. They may decide that your 50-foot catamaran serves its purpose just fine and insist that you should wash and wax it before next weekend’s regatta even though the current temperature is 90 degrees. With you out of the way, they will be free to get a new boat with your replacement. In my experience, downsizing to a smaller boat seems to be met with less resistance. If you are clever, you can go down by very small increments, say two to three feet every other year, and have a new boat more often. Be careful not to be too drastic in size reduction or you may find yourself not being able to stop the boat from bouncing your guts out on the way to that waterfront restaurant.  

It will be safer/more fun for the kids. 

If you actually have children, this one really works well! There is almost nothing a loving parent won’t do to insure their children’s safety or to increase the amount of fun they have when onboard. Moving up to a runabout with higher freeboard, a self-righting sailboat with life lines, or a cabin cruiser with a TV in the kid’s bunk room, are always an easy sell. Caution: Do not start having kids so you can get a new boat.

how to buy a boat
Tell them, "this boat will be faster!"

It will be faster. 

On the surface you may think that this will work only for powerboaters. Many sailors are just as passionate about going faster. If you are lucky, your spouse will share your need for speed. If so, getting that new faster boat will be easy. If your spouse isn’t crazy about going faster, you’ll need to educate them on its merits:

“If we had this 40-foot Grand Soleil racer/cruiser, we’d win all the club regattas, and that trophy would really dress up our mantel!”

“I promise, if we get this boat, it will be fast enough that we will never get caught out in a storm ever again!”

“We can beat all our friends to the poker run stops and get the best cards!” 

“We can stay late on Sunday at Still Pond and still get home for your favorite show!” 

It has a bimini top, head, and a stereo. 

When your current boat has none of these, your spouse is probably more interested in replacing you than the boat! Austerity is rarely attractive to a spouse especially when their comfort is compromised, unless you are a drop dead gorgeous or handsome individual. While it may be an easy sell on the surface, deep down your spouse may not want to make any further financial commitments with you until they consult their divorce lawyer one more time. Recently, I sensed that my wife’s desire to keep me around was dwindling. I believe that I bought some time by adding a really nice bimini top to our boat.

If you and your spouse attended the Bay Bridge Boat Show and already purchased a boat to your liking, congratulations! No doubt, you’ve probably been involved in boating long enough to stumble upon one of the above strategies. If you are one of the single people who “thought” that they might get married in the future and have read the above suggestions, you now realize that you should immediately buy your dream boat while you are still completely in charge!

If you aren’t able to convince your spouse to purchase a new boat after using one of the above approaches, you will have to pull out all the stops. On a few occasions I found that you can break down their resistance if you combine all of the tricks, I mean arguments, together. For example, “I bought this great boat as a surprise to you for our anniversary. I wanted a boat that was safer for our kids, easier for me to handle, and one that had a more comfortable ride in rough water for you. I promise you that we will save so much money that it will almost pay for itself. I made such a good deal that the salesman threw in a bimini top, stereo, and a head at no extra charge!”

By Dave Nestel