Sunday, January 13, 2002

Big boat dreams break winter doldrums

        I love the Travel, Sports and Boat Show. It's a cheap thrill, like Homearama. Every year, I escape the frozen tundra of January to a world of vacations, travel, leisure and guys catching fish in an aquarium. I get to peek into the lives of people who eat macaroni and cheese only when they want to.

        Mostly, I love the boats. Specifically, the big boats. “Motor yachts,” they call them. As opposed to the no-motor kind, with the Viking slaves below decks, rowing. They make me dream.

        “If Clooney calls, tell him I'm spending the weekend cruising the Lesser Antilles on my motor yacht. Get my plane ready. I'll be in Miami in two hours. Have my crew standing by.”

        My guide is Shawn McGee. He's works for Captain's Cove Motor Yachts on Kellogg Avenue. He sells boats bigger than my first house.

        This one was 48 feet long, 20 feet high and weighed 20 tons. It gets three-quarters of a mile per gallon, only slightly less than a Cadillac Escalade. The boat was on the street, because it was too wide to fit through the convention center doors. It was double-parked on Elm for the better part of two weeks. Incredibly, the cops never gave it a ticket.

        “Who owns these things?” I ask.

        “Just regular, successful people,” Shawn says.

        I'm successful. In a limited, narrowly defined, George Bailey kind of way. I couldn't afford a 48-foot boat unless it was made of rubber and came with a pump. Even then, I'd have to work out terms.

        “We do 20-year fixed mortgages,” Shawn says.

        People are buying these boats as second homes, says Shawn, the obvious advantage being if you tire of your little corner of Lake Cumberland paradise, you simply crank up the twin turbo-diesels and ease on down the stream.

        “A cottage on the water, so to speak,” Shawn says.

        This cottage double-parked on Elm comes with three TVs, three VCRs, three stereos, a DVD player, a wet bar, two staterooms, two bathrooms, a refrigerator, a microwave, a central vacuum system, three couches, leather captain's chairs, cedar-lined closets, solid cherry woodwork, a computer-guided navigational system and two “driving stations.”

        “All the comforts of home, without the personal property taxes,” Shawn says.

        For a mere $688,000.

        “Five or six times a year, somebody just writes a check,” says Shawn. “It's surprising how much disposable income there is in the Cincinnati area.”

        If you can pay 688K for a boat, what does your house look like, Versailles? Where do you live, Indian Hill-ier? When you come home, do you need a map to find the den?

        “What about extras?” I ask.

        Incentives, rebates. Cupholders. The last car I bought, they threw in Shoney's coupons. They were good for any Shoney's, all across the country. I got a keychain, too. You show that keychain at the dealership, you get a free car wash, for as long as you own the car. What about that?

        “There are some factory incentives,” Shawn says.

        Like what? When you buy this motor yacht, we'll throw in a lake in northeastern Indiana at no extra charge.

        “Not exactly,” Shawn says.

        I have other questions, about gift-wrapping and Visa and test drives and free oil changes. But Shawn can tell I'm not a serious player. “Tell your friends about us,” he says, looking at his watch.

        Finally, he tells me about a guy who drives these boats for people, who pick them up at a chosen destination. Recently, he made the trip from here toFort Lauderdale: “Down the Ohio River,” Shawn says. “Hang a left at the Tombigbee Waterway, all the way to Mobile, Ala., then across the Gulf of Mexico down around the Keys and up to Fort Lauderdale.”

        I could do that. Can I charge the Dramamine?



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