In my Cannes Boat Show Blog, I told you about how different European boats can be from those we commonly see in the US. That was in Cannes, France, where I quickly became accustomed to drinking wines I’ll never be able to afford at home. Next we went to England for the Southampton Boat Show.
There are a lot fewer American boats here than you’d think. The first reason is our proclivity towards sport fishing. The folks over here simply aren't interested in blasting 50 miles through the ocean to get to the next hotspot, due to their high fuel costs, rough oceanic conditions, and (one might naturally think), general Euro-wimpiness. Ah, mon dieu! Hold on a sec, my fellow testosterone-ridden Yanks. Perhaps we've been eating a bit too much hormone-ridden red meat, because on the docks here, it quickly became apparent that sailing is a lot more popular compared to powerboating than it is at home. This matters because sailing takes actual work! You have to “grind” winches, “hoist” sails, and “tack” your stuff down so it doesn't fall over when you zig-zag the boat back and forth.
In Southampton, it should be noted, there were some fishboats. Just for the record, I refuse to draw a distinction between the boats we saw in France and the boats we saw in England, because by simply lumping them together as European I don’t have to type as many words. Anyway, the Southampton fishboats aren't at all like ours; most have tiny wheelhouses and cuddies up on the bow, since, as I discovered first-hand, it rains in England every 15 to 20 seconds.
And that brings us to our second reason for the small number of American boats in attendance: as far as styling goes, we’re a solid ten years behind the Europeans. We have these swoopy transoms we call “Euro-transoms” on a lot of our boats, but I didn’t see them over here. Some transoms were angular and some were curvaceous, but none were anything like our swoopy sterns.
The Europeans are also a lot less likely to utilize honkin’ big outboards than we are. I only spotted a handful of outboards over 150-hp, and I never once spotted a rig with triples, much less quads. It's true that their fuel costs are much higher, and that no one really needs 900 or 1,000 horsepower to push a center-console -- but I choose to dismiss this reasoning, out of general American pig-headedness!
Despite these differences, there was one significant parallel to what we see in America: the reasons people give for buying a boat. I heard “to impress women,” and “to get away from the wife,” more than once. There’s some serious irony in there somewhere, and it probably explains why so many owners of express cruisers eventually buy fishing boats. But it just goes to show you that people are people no matter where you go.
I expect we’ll learn more as our travels continue—next we’re off to Quebec.