The world has gone mad with boats. But madness, like fine spirits, can be just right in small doses, depending on what one likes and how much one can stand. In any case, for eight delightful ways to go, read on

Fishing boats

When the water starts spilling in over the tops of your rubber wading boots, it’s time to think of getting a fishing boat. The favorite of the weekend fishing fleet is the 14-foot outboard with a 9V2-hp motor. Small and durable, this broad-beamed craft leaves lots of room for fishermen, gear, refreshments and catch. Cost: about $750 for boat and motor.

An alternative is not to own a boat but carry a motor in the trunk, renting a boat from the nearest marina. This is especially popular in British Columbia, where the fisherman follows the salmon to wherever they are running. The pet motor for the job is the 20 hp: light enough to lift around yet powerful enough to make a run for shore if the wind blows up.

The purists, of course, insist on the canoe. Quiet and light, the fisherman's canoe is of a special design, strong on stability. A trick is to carry a plastic bag with 60 pounds of water in the bow to keep the nose down. All equipment is loaded close to the centre and packed low to the bottom of the canoe. If the water does become a bit rough, a IV2or 2V2-hp engine on the stern provides an added burst of speed if necessary.

Big boats

The cabin cruiser remains the great gilded Cadillac of the waterways, the floating bank account. For a while, the do-it-yourself enthusiasts tried "to cash in on some of the surplus status and prestige, but the ugly ducklings they made served only to show off the professionally built swan.

A cruiser means money because that’s what it takes. A 30-foot plywood (the cheapest material) boat costs about $20,000. For fiber glass, add another $7,000. It takes at least 21 feet of boat to accommodate a wife and child in any semblance of luxury, and in fiber glass that takes about $10,000.

Long trips can be expensive: a 30footer with twin engines gobbles gas at about a gallon a mile. Diesels get roughly three times the mileage but cost twice as much to buy in the first place, so their economy depends on how many times you plan to travel around the world. Even sitting in one spot tends to be costly. This is especially true around the larger cities, where limited mooring space costs about $450 per year.

Still, the weekend traffic jams are increasing the practice of trading in the cottage for a cruiser. The 26to 30-foot boats dominate the market, and the influx of the non-seamen is encouraging the boat builders to stress more speed and comfort in the family cruiser. For sheer unabashed luxury and ostentatious pleasure-hunting on water, there’s nothing like it.


The most dramatic change in boating in the near future clearly concerns the houseboat. Originally, it was a lumbering cottage on pontoons, precariously unstable in anything except a stream or quiet lake. Now it unashamedly shares waters with the once-unapproachable cabin cruiser.

The secret has been to adapt a modified-V hull design to a roomy, livable cabin structure. The essential premise is comfort over appearance. A 37-foot houseboat with twin engines can pull a skier at 33 mph yet sleep eight at the same time. It is designed for living: full electrical system, soundproof, full kitchen with stove and refrigerator, shower, hot and cold running water. The cost, around $19,000, is some $28,000 less than a cruiser of the same size.

But for all its newfound sophistication, the houseboat retains a built-in psychological simplicity. It is attracting people to a large boat who would never dare attempt to skipper a cruiser. As yet, Canadian manufacture is restricted to two or three companies and import duty makes the purchase of U.S. houseboats prohibitive. However, the U.S. growth — where houseboat sales have tripled in the past three years — is expected to spread to Canada, and Canadians will soon have a wider choice of domestic-built craft.

Water-skiing boats

The horsepower race is really on when it comes to water skiing. Forty horses are about minimum, but a far more satisfactory power output is received from somewhere around 55 hp. However, highway speeds are unnecessary. In fact, competition skiers are never pulled faster than 36 mph. To make them turn faster in the slalom, the boat still goes the same speed but the length of the tow rope is shortened.

Added power is especially helpful to pull the beginner to his feet as well as for keeping up the speed when towing more than one. Skiing with a kite needs speed of at least 30 mph, but even more power is needed when the towboat has to change speeds to meet changing wind and kite-height conditions. Here, the driver is the critical factor. Once in the air, the skier's height is dependent on the speed of the boat.

Choosing the kind of boat for towing depends largely on the kind of water you’re skiing on. On a small lake with a smooth surface, a shallow-V boat gives the best ride. On rougher water, a heavier-V craft is needed to give directional stability. The boatmotor combinations are also infinite, but a 16-footer with a 40-hp motor is a good one to start with.


Probably the best idea you can ever have about buying a sailboat is to put it off a year. Join a sailing club instead. For starters, it’s easier to get into a club without a boat: with mooring space in short supply, most clubs are forced to discriminate in the kinds of boats they can make space for. Also, the average club has too many boats and too few good crew, so finding a ride is no problem.

Each club cultivates its own favorite classes. Unless you’re a potential lone wolf of the sea, it’s a good idea to make your first boat one of the pack. Short length, however, doesn’t necessarily make a craft easier to sail: you have to be an expert and a juggler to handle a 14-foot dinghy properly, while a 15-foot Albacore is a natural learning boat, stiff, sturdy and not too wild to control.

Learning the rudiments of sailing takes about three days; learning to race, five years. The superkeener can squeeze in about 80 to 90 races per season in Ontario and even more in British Columbia where the season goes for 10 months of the year.

Moving up the status scale takes money in geometric progressions. A 15-foot centreboard costs about $1,000; a 25-foot keelboat with cabin space takes $7,000; another five feet of boat doubles the cost. Club fees range between $25 and $400 per year, with $100 about average. Initiation fees are extra, but can usually be spread over the years. Joining a sailing club is still cheaper than playing golf.


BOATS continued

Racing boats

In thrills per dollar, racing boats have it all over the automobile. Fifteen hundred dollars or thereabouts buys a competitive Class B stock-outboard hydroplane and about 70 miles per hour. Outboard hydroplanes tend to dominate the field in numbers, particularly in Ontario and Quebec. With highly tuned production engines, the stockers are light, bouncy and exciting. A Class C stock-runner can top 70, yet the driver, boat and engine can weigh as little as 475 pounds total.

Races usually consist of 12 boats. They have a flying start and run five miles over three laps. The amount of racing varies each year, but the ambitious driver willing to travel can test himself in at least 15 events in a season. Though most meets do have prize money, racing on water remains for most an expensive hobby, i Fame, too, is in small supply. Big meets such as Valleyfield, Quebec, can draw 40,000, but they are rare. The majority pull in a few thousand. However, -crowds are growing, drawn by the noise and speed of an increasing number of high-performance alcohol burners, running with exhausts wide open.

Compared with hobbies such as bullfighting, mountain climbing and sky diving, boat racing remains relatively safe. Though flips were frequent last season, no one was killed.

Trailer boats

Exasperating land costs of lakefront lots have created a new society — the water gypsies. Their ambition is to see a different lake every weekend. Their weapon is the trailer.

Trailers take anything up to 45-foot craft, which require a police escort as well. But the real scourge of the highways is the 800-pounder, ideal for carrying the popular 14-foot outboard. Equipped with lights and safety chain, the quality product of the trailer market costs about $180.

Towing a boat takes up to a third off your car’s gas mileage, depending on the size of the boat. Though the driver usually cuts his speed by some 10 or 15 miles per hour, modern trailer design actually makes for the best tracking at usual driving speeds. Normal sizes take no special brakes to stop, but the larger trailers can be equipped with separate electric or hydraulic brakes.

Getting at a lake should be no problem. Most areas have municipal or provincial laws guaranteeing free access to lakes for the public.

Funny boats

If it can float, it’s a boat, the man said, and up cropped a fleet of . . . well . . . boats:

The GW Invader is a 10-foot-threeinch piece of fiber glass with twin bucket seats, a flat bottom, custom steering wheel and optional racing stripes. It takes on a recommended 20to 50-hp motor clamped to the back, but the adventuresome have tried anything up to 85 horses. Price: $695, plus motor.

The Ski-Flee is an expensive surfboard with an outboard motor up front. It takes up to 15 hp. The driver stands, holding two ropes, having set the throttle at required speed. Pulling on either rope turns the Ski-Flee to the side. Price: $425, plus motor.

If going into the bush, diving or exploring underground lakes is in your future, check out the inflatable dinghy. The eight-foot version folds down to a 30-by-20-inch bundle. When blown up, it carries three people or an 860pound load. The 12-foot model holds six to eight brave souls. The dinghy is also sectioned into several pockets of air, so all is not lost if you should run aground. The eight-footer costs about $275,-Complete with oars, foot or hand bellows and repair kit.

If that’s too slow, try shooting white water in a kayak. It draws only three and a half inches of water, so all you really need is a paddle and a damp rock. If you should hit, the 35-pound kayak’s fiber glass is light and strong enough to bounce off anything that isn’t jagged. Even full of water, it remains unsinkable if it has flotation foam at each end. Slalom competition model costs $175; the double-bladed paddle, about $12. □