The psalmist sang of those "that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters," but today the big business of going down to the sea (some $3.15 billion in 1968 alone) is done ashore as more and more Americans climb aboard more and more craft to have more and more fun on the water. According to a recent survey conducted by the boating trade, 725 companies were offering U.S. customers a choice of 4,000 stock boat models at the start of this year, and that figure (which is probably already out of date) does not include any of the custom-tailored goldplaters or make-do mavericks preferred by yachting's rugged individualists. Today's boats and nonboats come in every conceivable shape, size and price, ranging from the seagoing bucking bronco on the cover, through the transparent dinghy shown above, to the Hobie Cat coursing through the Pacific surf on the page opposite. For further temptations, turn on to Photographer James Drake's sampling of how—and in what—uncounted millions of boat-happy Americans will be going down to the sea this year.
Nonboats can be just as much fun and sometimes even more useful than the real thing. The girls at top are riding a jet-propelled gas-powered surfboard that doesn't need surf. Above is a six-tired amphibian boat-car that can navigate virtually anywhere.
Other nonboats include an outboard-powered rubber raft strong and swift enough to pull a water skier (left), the handy hovercraft (top) that rides several inches above land or water on a cushion of air and a waterborne bicycle-built-for-two sedately seductive as a surrey.
Inflatables, blown up by lung, pump or compressed gas cartridge, are for certain the most easily transported and stored of all watercraft Once out of the bag (above), the shapes they assume and uses they fill are almost limitless.
Houseboats combine in one tidy package all the comforts of home, sport and travel. Thunderbird's 40-foot Drift-R-Cruz (left) and Chris-Craft's 46-foot Aqua-Home (right and below) are two popular stock models in this burgeoning boating fashion.
But not all houseboaters buy their boats off the rack. The rich interior above is the main saloon (or living room) of a 68-foot houseboat custom-tailored to the requirements of a Virginia racehorse breeder by designers MacLear & Harris, Inc.
Speed and power are what most Americans want on the water, just as they do on land. Nova Marine's new 25-foot Nova, silhouetted against the now-immobilized " Queen Elizabeth," is one of the hundreds of stock boat models that provide these things.
Multihull sailors are the iconoclasts of the sea. Whether they are cruising aboard a 41-foot trimaran like that at left, hiking to windward on lively Pacific cats (above) or just lolling on a beach in Hawaii (below), they believe differently, sail differently and even decorate their sails differently from the traditionalists, who still insist that a single hull is enough.
Luxury in appointments is commonplace in the current affluence afloat. This lavishness is glimpsed at left in a corner of the 96-foot diesel yacht "Titian," built by Burger Boat Co. for a member of the duPont clan, and (above, below and right) in the bathroom fixtures, music room and command console of Sacramento broker Richard W. Smith's 73-foot cruiser "Pacific Gypsy," over whose decor Smith and his wife labored lovingly for six years.
Single-hulled sailboats will, to some, always seem the proper way to go to sea. Among the thousands available are stock re-creations of oldtimey boats like Sea Wanderer (above) and custom-built craft like the Sparkman & Stephens "Equation" (right).