Owner, Green Bay Packers
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: SW Michigan
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While not exactly liking the trend cited I suppose I do understand it. (understand, not like) It is a business decision and not really a boat decision. Successful boat builders are not in business to build boats-they are in business to make money. If they can make a decent return on investment and build a good boat all the better. But it's a slippery field and what was competetive yesterday is an untenable cost today.
Approaching boat building from a business standpoint these people know that 98% of their boats will spend 98% of their life tied up to a dock somewhere or on the hard. They also know that most of their boats won't get wet inside soon enough, or often enough, to be a problem to the builder. They have a very good idea of the life span, I mean economic life span, of their boats. Nobody complains about pressboard on a 15 year old boat-it's just one more thing to address on a usually long list. Coincidently, my 33 year old boat has some peg board in it for a sternsheets shelf. I don't think it was original, but it's been there quite a while and it's holding up fine. I've had it for five years and it's not been wet, not for lack of trying. It's on the list of things to be dealt with, but has never ascended anywhere near the top of the list. Heck, it may get sold with it still there!
There's a reason there are more Chevy's on the road than Mercedes and it's not just price alone. If the average car lifespan is ten years, how much do you want to spend on something that is going to be razorblades in ten years. Even though the Benz is demonstrably superior. From the manufacturers standpoint, it is more profitable to build something that he can sell 1000 times more of than the alternative quality product.
Think of all those great old boat builders who are no longer around. The luxury tax of the eighties certainly hastened their demise, but it is very difficult to stay in business 'over-building' your product and getting the money your product deserves. The current crop represents what boat buyers are willing to pay for. The rest of us are buying our "Mercedes" used. Case in point: From conversation on this site I've learned that most sailors are not willing to part with the money that a new Plath or Tamaya sextant costs. They buy one of Davis' products and I expect it meets their needs. No one is going to debate which is the better instrument. It is also no surprise that Tamaya and Plath are the only survivors left in the high end sextant market. Would anybody be surprised if one or both folded up production in the near future? And Davis continued merrily along?
You gets what you pays fors. That being said, it is rather much to cast one's eye upon genuine simulated wood and keep the digestive cycle flowing in the right direction. But let's face it, the average boat buyer notices those cockpit stereo speakers a lot more than how the bulkheads are tabbed to the hull. And, if the builder adds enough "sizzle" most buyers aren't going to notice that the "steak" is tough. I'll bet that Jeff could name a bunch of guys who believed that if they built a really good quality boat that performed well the sailing world would beat a path to their door-and they're not in business anymore.