Friday, February 23, 2018

Hey! Who’s the Captain? Kids & Decision Making

I used to drive a sporty car, live in a cozy, inexpensive apartment and vacation in the Caribbean. Now I drive a minivan, live in a good school district with outrageous taxes (we’re leaving when my youngest graduates high school!), and vacation at Disney parks. Ah, the days when decisions were ours alone to make!

Nowadays, my kids definitely influence my decisions concerning just about everything, including boating. When our first child was born, my husband and I co-owned a 45’ Carver that was perfect for entertaining guests and going on overnight excursions. It was spacious, bright, and very comfortable. My sister and brother-in-law, our boating partners, also had a daughter pretty much the same time we did– great planning! With two kids in the toddler stage, we soon realized that boating had taken on a completely new meaning. Our boat had a bridge that was accessible by ladder, which we quickly learned was not a favorable set-up for a two-year-old with antsy pants who wants to visit daddy on the top and then go back down to the salon to watch TV every 10 minutes while the boat is in full throttle.

We slowly came to understand that we weren’t going on any more overnight trips, anywhere. Our parties dwindled down to none, and a big boat required much more attention and TLC than we had time to spare. So we traded in our boat, downsizing to something more manageable and kid-friendly (much to my husband’s dismay– he’s still in mourning over the transition).

When boaters have kids, they must make some sacrifices and concessions. The type of boat we ultimately buy depends heavily on how we will be using it and what our kids think. Bill Sisson, the editor of Soundings, a marine trade blog, writes, “We all know…of the important role played in a boat purchase by a spouse, a significant other, a life partner…But don’t overlook the power of the kids to influence a purchase, either.” He goes on to say, “I recall Correct Craft president and CEO Bill Yeargin using it to make a point at the Miami International Boat Show last winter. ‘The role of kids in the buying process is often overlooked,’ Yeargin told me. ‘There is no question that kids heavily influence purchase decisions.’”

Our good friends Charlie and Julie Dixson are our boating buddies. They enjoy the water as much as we do, but things have certainly changed some since their daughter Ellie was born. “Boat was before baby, but thank goodness she took to it,” says Charlie. “Kids bring big life changes, but in regards to boating life the change was how, when, and where we went boating– NOT that we stopped boating and sold our boat.  MY time on the water is less, the distances traveled are less, and the range of things I do via boat is narrower, but it is still ingrained in our lifestyle and social network.”

As for boating’s positive changes, Charlie points out that “my daughter gets to experience great things and I get to be there for them, holding (and petting) a sand shark with two of her friends, tubing all summer long, her first trip through the inlet and into the ocean, and her first attempts at waterskiing.”

Charlie knows boating decisions are not solo choices. “Kids definitely influence what type of boat to buy (as do spouses!),” he says.  “For us the next challenge is the right step up in size. We need something that is good for tubing and waterskiing, and is safe and comfortable for a number of kids. A potty would be a huge increase in comfort for all as well.”

My sister has definitely been vessel-challenged (or confused) since she’s had kids. She’s the proud owner of a multitude of watercrafts: the 27’ Maxim that we own together, intended for longer trips so the kids have the safety and comfort of a cabin; a 21’ Striper to take the kids fishing and on fast boat rides; an old Boston Whaler to futz around the local beaches; a jet ski for tubing and riding; and two kayaks to paddle around the creeks. Every vessel purchase was designed to keep the kids happy!

While we adults dream about what our next boat will be, the ages and stages of our family mean that we’ll probably be sticking with the Maxim for a while. That is, until our kids finally reach the age where an overnight trip would be, well, “survivable!”

By Maria Orlando Pietromonaco

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