The summer is winding down and the smell of fall is in the air. For many that means leaves falling off the trees, and fleece sweaters out of the closet for chilly mornings as the sun takes its time to herald a new day.

The fall boat show season is soon upon us. I always seem to live in a place that hosts a boat show: Annapolis; Seattle; Stuart. Wonder if that is an odd coincidence or part of some master plan?

In Annapolis, boat shows are a big deal. Life in town is totally disrupted while we gear up for our first look at new designs in boats, hardware, and clothing. There are new launches, new gear, and the next generation of technology promises wonderful things to come. And my favorite sport is people-watching.

Boating is alive and well in this country, readily seen at boat shows on both coasts, in the Midwest, and those mega events in Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, and Palm Beach. In locations like Annapolis, the dates on the calendar coincide when annual migrations of sail and power cruisers converge for rendezvous events. There are dinner parties and other celebrations that bring us together, kindred spirits who share a common passion. We get to hear what others have done, where they are now, and what the future holds. It is the ultimate form of validating one’s free spirit of adventure.

(Below: The Sailboat Show in Annapolis.)

sailboat show in annapolis maryland

No matter which boat shows pique your interest this year, it is a yearly reminder that it may be time to move up or down on the boat ownership spectrum. This is especially true as we conclude a full season of boating that hopefully provided us with fun and satisfaction.

So, it is no surprise when casual breakfast or lunch with friends eventually comes around to evaluating how things went this summer. What worked, what needs to change, and the comments heard from one’s spouse (mere suggestions, mind you) about the state of the family boat. Too much like camping, too many equipment problems, too fast and expensive, too slow to get anywhere, too much work, too big to handle...

Or what none of us want to hear: it isn’t fun anymore.

As the years go by, we move on in life, each year a bit older, perhaps wiser. I’d like to think we see ourselves as we are, not as we once were. For the most part, it is a natural understanding of how things are supposed to be.

I am reminded of a prayer that captures the essence of this sentiment. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

That is so true, as life goes up and down, left and right. Knowing when to downsize, change horses, or simply walk away…

Of course, it is not just about aging sailors, and it is not always about going smaller.

A young couple with limited resources lives aboard a 25-foot sloop while enjoying the cruising life during their first year. But they just rescued a dog. And to earn money to fund their lifestyle, she hopes to turn her sewing hobby into canvas repair. They now dream of a larger sailboat that gives them a few more feet of living space.

(Seen Below: YouTube channel When Sailing discusses ways to earn a living while cruising.)

Middle aged families want to balance their busy lives with quality time on the water. But after a summer of heat and humidity, the slow pace of their sailboat is no longer the draw it once was. They want to take family and friends to popular places for an afternoon of walking and shopping around town, with maybe an ice cream cone before heading home. A faster cruiser makes much more sense at this point in their lives. Running at 20+ knots, air conditioning, and a relaxed interior only highlight the priority of destination over the journey. That once loved 38-foot sailboat doesn’t fit the mission anymore.

A renowned 80-year-old woman is cruising the Pacific solo on her 39-foot sailboat. She has already circumnavigated on this boat, winning accolades from the cruising community for her tenacity and skill sailing at her age.

Yet, she now finds it harder than she expected. A faulty windlass means she must pull the anchor chain up by hand, no mean feat for a person half her age. Suspecting water in her outboard gas tank, the fouled carburetor must be disassembled and thoroughly cleaned. She looks around the anchorage for a younger pair of hands accomplished at such a task to get her outboard running again. Her dinghy is useless otherwise.

And attempting to pick up a mooring once she reached the next safe anchorage, she hooks the ball with her boat hook, and prepares to bring the pennant aboard. But the mooring ball twists the boat hook in her hand, and she doesn’t have the strength to hold on. She loses it over the side.

It doesn’t take much insight to see where this is going. Her ultimate safety on the ocean has become a risky business.

A friend recently completed the Triangle Loop on his 43-foot Eastbay cruiser. Erie Canal, Lake Ontario, Thousand Islands, Rideau Canal, Chambly and Richelieu canals into Lake Champlain, down the Hudson, and off the coast of New Jersey on a flat Atlantic Ocean. A lovely trip with his wife, a real trooper to deal with 103 locks this summer.

(Seen below: A map of the Triangle Loop.)

map of the triangle loop

Back in Annapolis, he ponders what is next. The Eastbay has proven ideal for his style of cruising, yet he has now completed his bucket list of cruises out of the MidAtlantic area. He knows it is not the right boat for cocktail cruises around Annapolis. It is a great cruising boat, and if he has already done the Chesapeake Bay, ICW, New England, and Canadian cruising, then what is left to do?

Maybe time for a different boat?

Other friends ordered a new motoryacht when they retired, a spectacularly comfortable boat for a couple with the resources to do it right. They cruised for years on a Monk 36, but now with plenty of time, they bought the boat of their dreams to do everything they could hope to experience in the new boat. New England, the Caribbean, various legs of interest of the Great Loop, and holidays in New York City with the family.

They did what they set out to do on the boat. Smart people who are very much in touch with their priorities and overall life plan. They sold the motoryacht after a couple of years to buy a center console fishing machine to fit their life down in a new home in the Florida Keys.

I contrast the above examples to folks I know who are literally stuck in their boat. I know them well, as I was once stuck myself. Having bought my ideal boat, it became so familiar, so much a part of my boating persona. I tried to make it fit even as I gained experience and my dream changed. I found new adventures on the horizon, yet I could not bring myself to accept that it no longer was the right boat for me.

I could have saved myself a lot of grief and unnecessary bother had I just been honest with myself and talked to a broker who could help me out of the fog.

Life is so much easier if we find joy and new adventures in a boat that fits our reality now. There is no point in struggling to accept the status quo if it doesn’t fit reality. And getting back to my initial comments about the boat shows, there are so many great choices out there, I simply see no reason not to explore them and see if there is a better fit.

(Seen below: The Seattle Yachts team attends boat shows from Florida, to Annapolis, to California, and the Pacific Northwest.)

seattle yachts team at boat show

I am a huge advocate of buying a newer boat when it is time to go cruising, rather than taking an ancient mariner and finding new exotic places to fix it. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if it is sail or power, a boat that is newer than 10 years won’t have nearly the issues as one that is 25 to 50 years old. Systems, wiring, plumbing, mechanicals, even the building practices to which they were built (if followed at all) were far less enlightened as more recent standards. That goes for everything in the boat.

Take off into the sunset on an older boat that has its original water heater that is now almost 20 years old. Why are you surprised where it stops working now that you are using it full time? On a stabilized trawler, leave on your cruise with well used, original fin stabilizers, and expect the system to work flawlessly as you cross an ocean. And you are surprised when you have issues???

I look around at all the cool boats that we sell at Seattle Yachts and see how many of them are a better fit than that 43-foot Eastbay now that long cruises are checked off the list.

I think of all the people who prefer to travel at single digit speeds with a single diesel engine and want a comfortable layout in a boat that is lower maintenance with great access. And can be loaded on a trailer to reach the different cruising grounds across North America. Have you seen SeaPiper 35? Check it out.

That senior solo sailor could benefit from a newer sailboat, and her downtime would be reduced if everything on the boat was still in its prime of less than 10 years old. That goes for systems, rigging, autopilot, even sails. (One can still argue that she would be safer doing something other than solo sailing at her age around the Pacific. Find a willing and able crew?)

Once you embrace change, it can easily become a fun adventure again. Finding the next boat among today’s great choices is great fun and the right boat is out there, perhaps several. Being stuck in a boat that no longer fits makes no sense at all.

It’s all about fun, adventure, and experiencing life on your terms. Why not do it in style on a boat that fits your idea of a life well lived. Today.