I had a dream the other night about a slender wisp of a lady whose love I squandered while in search of bigger and better things. Oh, the pain of unrequited passion! I am sure we all have whimsy about what could have or should have been. I did posses her for a short time and then threw her away. Sigh!
Lest you think I am a two-timing cad, I was married at the time. I must tell you 'she' was the perfect boat. I failed to recognize her true beauty until years later. How could I have been so foolish? I understand how; it was during my transition from a blow-boater to a stink-potter. I didn't have enough world sense to recognize the beauty.
I had worked in the boat business, sailboats, for nearly 10 years. When I relocated to Fort Myers Beach just a few years earlier, I realize that this area wasn't a sailboat market. In 1987 I took a job as a boat salesman for a local marina. My intent was to learn powerboats but, in a very short time, I realized that I wasn't going to learn much there.
One day in October as I was watching the new/old inventory of lake boats turning to mush, a young man drove into the marina pulling a center console fishing boat named 'Biddison'. The marina owner told me to get rid of him because he wasn't interested in anymore boat lines. I didn't because there was an aura around this 16-foot boat.
"Biddison, what kind of name is that for a boat," I asked. The young man explained it was his families name, and he was sure they were going to make it as famous as Bar-Slammer. I didn't want to burst his balloon and tell him that Bar-Slammer was akin to Studebaker or Edsel in automobiles. So, this was my first mistake, not looking passed the unusual name to see her true beauty.
"I understand that you have space in the November Fort Myers Boat show. Could you see your way to let us rent a tiny part of it to show one of our boats," Biddison asked. It took some convincing but the marina owner let them put an 18-foot Biddison in our outdoor space. What could it hurt? We were loaded with inboard/outboard lake boats that weren't selling. A real Florida fishing boat might be the answer.
When our mechanics were prepping the 'Biddison' for the show they kept telling me how well the boat was made. "It should be for the price! Retail on this boat is 20 to 25 percent above similar center consoles." They replied that she was designed to perfection but I shrugged and walked away, so blind was I.
We surrounded her with a collection of our lake boats. I was still running a dehumidifier in the 27-footer with the plush red interior that had a leak in the overhead hatch. While showing this boat to a couple from Michigan, my backside was "painted" red from a wet cushion. I finally gave up and removed it from the show, which allowed better line of sight to the center console.
During the show most northern visitors and snowbirds looked at the lake boats then came up to me and said, "My grandfather had one of those! I didn't think they made them anymore?" A trip down memory lane was all the lake boats were worth. A lot of traffic but no one was interested in buying one.
After a day I stayed closer to the Biddison and listened to the running comments, "Hey Bill, look at the storage in this boat," said most of the men who got onto her. "I wish Mako did the live-well like this! Everything is stainless steel. Can I have a brochure?"
In the sailboat business no one buys boats the first time they see one, there are exceptions but the rule is look, look, look, talk to everyone you know three times and look some more before you buy. So it's imperative that you get the prospects name and contact info. If they decline to give it up, they weren't really interested and you saved yourself a $5 brochure.
I filled a yellow legal pad sheet the second day and, by the end of the show, I had over a hundred contacts. By sailboat standards, that was a real success. The marina owner wasn't impressed because we didn't sell a boat at the show. I did learn that this Biddison was a great fishing boat from real fishermen who raved at her design and amenities. I also learned a lot from the young factory representative.
I quickly learned the high points of the boat and the advantages of the Biddison boats rolled off my tongue. There were a plethora of high points that were easy to talk about, but the price point was hard to overcome. So we never sold a Biddison at the show. I truly believed that I could sell 10 boats out of the hundred prospects on my legal pad if given the chance, but the marina owner declined to become a dealer.
I was offered the factory price on any of their three boats. It was substantially lower than retail, but I passed. To this day I regret not buying that showboat for myself. I really believe I would not have lost a dime because there are 25-year-old boats selling for nearly the same price today! Unrequited love, somebody shoot me, just kidding!
Boatguy Ed is a retired marine paint manufacturer living in Southwest Florida. Visit the "Dead End Canal Yacht Club Facebook page and like us on your way to a social membership. Also see www.supershipbottom.com. Send comments to boatguiEd@aol.com