img6298'Tis the season to be jolly, so why not, during the impending holiday season, do something to make yourself smile for the rest of the year: buy a new boat. It couldn't be simpler. You are already logged on to the website with the best information available, so why not make use of it and turn a smile on to the face of a manufacturer, dealer or a broker. Make his or her holiday season one to remember as well.

I can hear the teeth sucking through cyberspace, but this is the time for bold action, not for pussyfooting around. What better than showing your wife, your husband or your partner the glossy brochures or the listings and invite his or her opinion into how the boating future is going to be for both of you. There couldn't be a better way to prepare yourself in the long evenings prior to the unleashing of festive joy.

The objections can soon be swept aside. You NEED it. The old boat, while adequate to a degree, has always left you with the feeling that there was a better way of enjoying yourself. It has been so from time immemorial and moving into a new century (on 1st January 2001) should see no change, except that, for once, you are on the receiving end of the general bonhomie of the time of year.

Evidence of boom-time is all around us, and so it should be on the end of the dock where you moor your treasured leisure investment. It will do wonders for your morale (possibly at a low ebb in the winter months) and it will never have been easier to finance. Salaries and benefits are at an all-time high and the interest rates are low to the point where the banks are virtually giving the money away. They need your help too, and surely the thought of a banker with a smile beginning to form brings festive spirit pounding in the bosom.

On a more serious note, this is the ideal time to make a move towards upgrading your boat. All over the world there are dealers looking to offload the 2000 stock to make room for next year's models, and these should be available at bargain basement prices. The discounts take care of depreciation over the first year. Boating, however you care to go about it, is to be enjoyed, so loosen up and make the move to improve your enjoyment.

As the dealers offload their stock to an appreciative set of customers, there will be the trades-in from which the discerning first-time buyer can take his pick. Often well kept, these invariably come with a host of bolt-on, plug-in goodies that are not reflected in the price. The purchase of a cruiser-racer sailboat, for example, will often bring with it a surfeit of sails and electronics which has set the previous owner back a fistful of money, and which, one generation down the line, provides the new owner with a comfortable buffer against further purchases for several years.

If you don't feel the need to change your boat, at least give it a present. Sailmakers offer discounts at this time of the year that makes one wonder how they have to charge what they do the rest of the year round. Riggers too are looking for work for otherwise idle hands and their prices will reflect this. Safety gear is one area where there should be no scrimping, but with goodwill in their hearts the hardware houses and the chandlers also have end-of-season sale prices for this essential gear.

However, remember the warning — caveat emptor (buyer beware) — the dealer or second-hand seller will undoubtedly forget to tell you that what you see is what you get, and every used-boat purchase should only be made after recourse to a marine surveyor. Their report should point to any shortcomings, but from then it's up to you. Bear in mind the seasonal bumper sticker that reminds you - "A dog is not just for Christmas."

Happy holidays!