By Capt. Craig Price
Fish On!

 “The perfect boat” – just writing the phrase conjures up images of a sleek, fast-fishing machine that will carry me and six-full paying customers, plus extra banks of batteries, state-of-the-art electronics, bait tanks, safety equipment and all of our gear, quickly and safely through heavy seas.

But it’s still lightweight enough to allow us to fish or travel across skinny water. It’s easy to trailer and transport over land. Its engines are quiet and extremely fuel efficient, and while I’m dreaming, it has self-cleaning capability – both inside and out!

I’m often asked “if you could only choose one boat, what design would you choose?”

Well I asked myself that question about 12 years ago, and the rig I purchased, and have operated since, comes reasonably close to “my perfect boat.”

Most of us have to deal with a troublesome concept called “fiscal reality” when we buy big ticket items like boats. It usually forces us to settle for a design that only comes close to our idea of perfection. Add in considerations like end uses, dock or storage space, weight capacity, tow-ability, operating costs, etc. and the rationalization hits full stride.

Below I’ve listed the basic factors I think a potential boat buyer should consider before making the buying decision:

• Budget – This critical concern affects numerous aspects of the buying venture. Not only does one need to decide how much to spend up front, but also what monthly payment, if any, is affordable? A critical error many buyers make at this first juncture is to under-estimate insurance, as well as operating and maintenance costs.

• Weight capacity – This calculation must consider not only the operator and passengers, but also extraneous equipment systems like batteries and electronics, safety gear, even luggage when appropriate, plus any other significant contributors. Most vessels are engineered to high safety standards and come with a weight-capacity rating, but don’t take that for granted. Carefully consider all peripheral items that can tip the scale to an unsafe load.

• Sea conditions – Do you plan to stay on Lake Norman or maybe venture into the open ocean? Judging by the size of many of the boats I encounter on Lake Norman these days, it appears many local boaters are anticipating crossing the ocean someday. All joking aside, like the ocean, big lakes and open inshore coastal areas can become extremely rough and dangerous. Err on the side of safety and caution when considering this factor.

• End use – Obviously a sailor doesn’t need a planing hull while a displacement hull is useless to those who want to go fast. Learn the difference between the two designs and choose the version that best suits your needs.

• Freshwater or saltwater – Boat operation in saltwater or even storage on land in a saltwater environment is a major factor that affects materials of construction. Do not under estimate the corrosivity of saltwater, and its effect on metal parts and moving assemblies.  

• Storage – Do you plan to keep the boat in the water, in dry storage, on a trailer? This factor impacts design, costs, transportability, maintenance and other issues. Consider this concern carefully.

• Exposure to weather – Does an open boat like a center console with no top serve your purposes, or do you need enclosed spaces? Typically the more enclosed spaces, the more weight in the hull and the less fuel efficient the craft is. Overhead structures and enclosures tend to interfere with fishing, too. But cabins and enclosed decks provide protection from the elements and even sleeping berths. They also allow A/C in the summer and heat in the winter.

• Safety – Safety should be in the forefront of every decision you make concerning the purchase or operation of any vessel. If you haven’t taken any formal safety and navigational training, I strongly suggest doing so before making your buying decision.

I’m sure there are other concerns you may encounter or think of that I haven’t listed here. But these suggestions should serve as a good foundation for selecting the boat of your dreams. Even if life’s realities too often trump our desires, “the perfect boat” is a worthy, and often unending,  quest for any seaman or seawoman. I wonder if they’re actually working on that self-cleaning feature?

Capt. Craig Price, of Denver, serves as a fishing guide through Fish On! Lake Norman.