For example, the shopper should ask the salesmen if it is possible to put spring-line cleats near the point of maximum beam. If you explain what you mean by maximum beam, some of them will say yes. Some of them don't know what a spring line is. Ask a salesman why a sassy-looking cruiser has an outboard handrail leading from the cabin forward, but not an inch of foothold around the cabin. He will explain that the handrail is simply for "cosmetic appearances." If pressed on the matter, the salesman may further add that the U.S. Coast Guard recommends that the only access forward on small cruisers should be through a forward hatch. Check the Coast Guard on it, and they will tell you they have never made such an absurd recommendation.
Stamas, a Florida company that produces sensible boats with non-skid walk-around decking and forward hatch, says this about some of the less sensible products of its rivals: "In many cruisers today the bow area is reached at the crawler's own risk."
Examine the forward hatches of half a dozen boats. You will probably find all of them suitable for seagoing orangutans, but the chances are some of them will be too small for an average-sized man who is trying to hustle forward in an all-hands emergency. Examine one of the flashier cruisers now on the market and you will find there is no point to fix a line on the foredeck except one cleat on each side five feet back of the stem and three feet off the centerline. If anchored from such a point in a one-foot sea and 10 knots of wind, the boat would wander restlessly on its rode. If towed from such a cleat in even a modest sea, it would wallow back and forth like a drunken old sow.
Reviewing the trend in modern boats, Gary Ross, the marketing director of the Tiara Division of S-2 Yachts, Inc., says, "The marine industry is a strange business. It is not large, but it is very visible. The sea hasn't changed in a million years, but in the last 15 years the marketing of boats has changed drastically. Marketing now ignores the possibility that someone might want to go offshore in a boat that is sensible and practical and come back safely like a Boothbay lobsterman. Too many people who are buying boats are looking for a duplicate of their living room. Their idea of roughing it is to spend a night in a Holiday Inn without color TV. To sell them a boat you have to have unborn yak hair overhead in the cabin and all sorts of monkey fuzz in the cockpit, and you must have about 9,000 horsepower. The first question some prospective buyers ask is, 'How fast will it go?' Then when they get the boat, they go through propellers the way you go through socks."
There is only one trouble with Ross' summary: none of the absurdities he cites as "musts" in a successful boat are in the boats he is successfully selling. The 25-foot Sport Salon, the top of the Tiara line, is both sensible and practical. It's the sort of craft anyone more interested in pleasure than puffery might enjoy. Its flying bridge is only 39 inches above the cockpit, yet there is full headroom below. It has no jazzy carpeting in the cabin nor tufted cusions in the cockpit. There is access forward both outboard of the cabin and through a hatch. From stem to stern no more than two feet separate one handhold from another. The entire deck area is covered with a non-skid surface "consisting of little pyramidal protrusions almost a sixteenth of an inch high. The Vee-berths are nearly 6�' long, and the dinette converts into a 6'2" berth, wide enough for one adult or two kids. There is a total of 10 sizable lockers, each with a non-protruding snap latch and all of them accessible without lifting a cushion or otherwise rearranging the interior.
The Tiara Sport Salon has some shortcomings, notably a rather small forward hatch and outboard cleats on the fore-deck rather than chocks backed up by cleats. For all that, it is a sensible boat that sells. To describe any seagoing boat merely as "sensible" seems like damning with faint praise, but in an era when freaky boats abound, it is a compliment that carries weight.