Come Sail Away (or Not): The Advantages and Disadvantages of Boats
The boating lifestyle has been romanticized in song after song. Everybody from Jimmy Buffett and the Beach Boys to Styx, Little Big Town, Chris Janson and Alan Jackson has something to say about them.
Whether we want to win the lottery and buy a boat, become charter members of the Redneck Yacht Club or simply sail away beneath the Southern Cross, there’s just something about boats that brings out the inner adventurer in all of us.
That said, boating may not be the lifestyle for everyone. A boat might not be the right investment for you.
Here, we'll walk you through the advantages and disadvantages of boats so you can make the best call for you and your family. Will a boat make your life better? Or is it something you're better off without?
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Boats
I realize I may be preaching to the choir (or the yacht club, as the case may be) with this one. You're on a boating site, after all. However, if you weren’t already aware of all of the advantages of owning a boat, I’ll be happy to enlighten you with this list.
Whether it’s cruising around the lake, pulling up to a waterfront restaurant or snorkeling the reefs and wrecks of the Florida Keys, you’ll always have something to do when you own a boat. You might even start to plan vacations around new places where you can trailer your boat.
Entertaining friends and family
Between floating, catching rays and barbecuing, boats provide so many ways of entertaining and connecting with friends and family. Along with the above-mentioned recreation factor, you can load up the paddle boards, tubes, snorkeling accessories and other gear for a fun day on the water. You can make up and adapt all kinds of fun games and activities to play on the water.
Sightseeing and fishing from the shore are fine, but you’ll get an entirely different perspective from the water. You can explore sandbars and small islands, or find a secluded fishing spot that’s completely inaccessible by foot or car.
When you’re on a boat, even that PB&J in your cooler tastes like fine dining. Trust me, stuff just tastes better on a boat.
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Meeting new people
Boat people are the best people (seriously, we are). Any boater worth their salt will tell you that. Pull up to the sandbar, tie off a line to a nearby pontoon, cruiser or deck boat and enjoy the day.
Boaters love to share their ideas, opinions and recommendations on everything from the best boating gear, cleaning products and mechanics to where to anchor out for the sunset.
If you have questions about any type of boat issue, there’s bound to be somebody that knows something. If you travel to marinas for the weekend or night, you’re sure to find like-minded individuals to share an anecdote or two.
Learning new skills and hobbies
Once you’ve mastered the basics of boating, you can venture into learning new skills or enhancing the ones you already have. You can learn to hoist sails or jibe and tack on a sailboat.
Discover how navigating a pontoon boat is entirely different than a trawler. Even if all you do is you learn how to tie a new knot, you’ve accomplished something.
Finally understanding songs that salute the advantages of boats
I thought it would be fun to make a list of all of the songs that make listeners want to run out and buy a boat. I was right; it was fun. Now excuse me while I run out and buy a boat.
- “Boats” – Kenny Chesney
- “Buy me a Boat” – Chris Janson
- "Downeaster Alexa” – Billy Joel
- "Drive” – Alan Jackson
- "Come Sail Away” – Styx
- "Pontoon” – Little Big Town
- "Redneck Yacht Club” – Craig Morgan
- “Sailing” – Christopher Cross
- “Sloop John B” – The Beach Boys
- “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Boat” – Jimmy Buffett
- “Southern Cross” – Crosby, Stills & Nash
- “Vahevala” – Loggins and Messina
- “Where the Boat Leaves From” – Zac Brown Band
- "I Was on a Boat that Day" - Old Dominion
- "Happy on the Hey Now" - Kenny Chesney
Regardless of what Jimmy Buffett, Zac Brown or David Crosby tell us, there are a few disadvantages to boats. Some of us choose to ignore them, but it’s always good to consider both sides.
Chris Janson sings about how “Money can’t buy happiness, but it could buy me a boat.” The purchase of the actual boat is just the starting point.
If you could save up, buy that dreamy Basstracker, Bayliner or Party Barge and sail off into the sunset, life really would be a dream. Unfortunately, there’s that unavoidable requirement of boat insurance, annual maintenance and storage fees. Then, of course, there’s fuel, oil and ramp fees.
Next, we get into all of the fun stuff like tubes, water skis, fishing gear and that cool “I’m the Captain” hat you’ve been eyeing at the local marina store. It can all drain the bank account faster than you might think.
Learning the ropes
Just like learning to drive a car, operating a boat takes time and effort. It’s not necessarily difficult, but it’s also not something you should just decide on a whim.
Boat-specific skills include trailering, launching, anchoring and docking, among many more. All of these are very different from operating a wheeled vehicle. Even well-seasoned boaters encounter problems with trailering and launching. But that’s a story for another time.
You can, and should, take a boating education course through the U.S. Coast Guard. Depending upon your state laws, you’ll probably need a boating license as well.
Time spent on non-boating necessities
According to Alan Jackson’s dad, “you can’t beat the way an old wood boat rides.” That’s entirely true. But you also can’t beat the time and attention it’s going to need for repairs, annual maintenance and winterizing. That goes for any boat, whether it’s new, old, wooden, fiberglass or otherwise.
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Breakdowns and mishaps
“Three-hour tours” notwithstanding, a breakdown on the water isn’t as simple as calling the local tow truck. Granted, you won’t be stuck on an island for three years, but you’ll probably spend a good amount of time waiting for a boat towing service like BoatUS Towing or Sea Tow if it’s a busy time of year.
Additionally, propeller damage can ruin a day as quickly as overheating that Johnson, Mercury or Evinrude outboard engine.
Unless you have a roomy garage, backyard or driveway, you’re going to need to store your boat at a marina or boatel during the down season. Of course, if you’re lucky enough to live where it’s pleasant year-round, then this wouldn’t apply to you. Carry on.
Worry and stress during bad weather
If the previous scenario didn’t apply to you, this one might. Coastal areas that allow you to enjoy boating year-round can cause concern during hurricane season.
You’ll have to take measures to protect your boat if it’s stored in water at your private dock or at a marina. It can also be a nerve-wracking experience to be out on your boat when Mother Nature decides to turn to the stormy side.
A gateway hobby
This one affects the ego more than anything else. Once you’ve owned a boat and participated in all of the fun and exciting things the boating lifestyle has to offer, you’ll always be wanting something bigger, faster or flashier.
Songs that illustrate the disadvantages of boats
As long as we’re considering both sides of boat ownership, here’s a list of songs that might make you re-think the boating life.
- “Gilligan’s Island” theme – The Wellingtons
- “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” – Gordon Lightfoot
- “Jaws” theme – John Williams