The Family Man’s Guide to Boat Shows

Boat show season is upon us so I thought I would help the rookie family men out there with a few pointers to help make your boat show experience a little easier.  I’ve been in your shoes.  I’ve felt the pain that you will soon feel.  When approached correctly, a boat show trip can be a fun way to spend a weekend with your family.  When approached incorrectly it can strain even the strongest marriage.  I’ll be the first guy to tell you to keep your wife happy.  You can beat on your chest and talk about being the king of the castle and who wears the pants all you want but in the end, if your wife is happy the food tastes a lot better.  It’s much less arsenic-ey.

man eating

Mmmmm! Honey, it’s so good I can’t feel my feet.

So what qualifies me to give advice?


Many years ago I met a woman who was beautiful, smart, caring, and (most importantly) willing to put up with my addiction to fishing, hunting, camping and bad jokes.  Soon after we got hitched we thought it would be cool to have some little, 3-D printed versions of ourselves.  That was 23 years and two kids ago and I am still married to the same woman and our children have grown up (mostly) normal.  I have attended dozens of boat shows in the last quarter century and none have resulted in divorce.  These tips can, and will, help the rookies out there.  So let’s get down to it…

 1. Getting to the Boat Show

You can’t enjoy the majesty of a boat show if you can’t get your wife out of the house.  My tactic works pretty well.  Casually mention to your wife that the boat show is in town and it would be good to get out of the house.  Tell her, and this is vital, that you will “only pop in for a few minutes.”  I understand that this is a borderline lie but it may be your only chance.  Depending on the intelligence level of your wife, this may only work once or twice before your wife catches on and shuts you down.  In rare cases a wife might not even fall for it the first time.  When the “few minutes” ploy runs its course you have to turn to the kids.  Telling the kids that they’ll get happy meals or ice cream on the way home from the show will send them, and their supernatural nagging ability, running for your wife.  No mother can withstand the puppy dog eyes of her children.  You’ll be in the car in less than 15 minutes.  While I understand that using your kids may be seen as an underhanded trick, desperate times call for desperate measures.

If the pleas and cries of her children don’t get your wife in the car you may be married to a villainous, stepmother kind of woman from a Disney movie.  I suggest you find a prince/princess type to slay her and start over.

2. Don’t Scare the Kids 

For some reason we live in a society obsessed with zombies.  Our kids see zombies in the movies, on T.V. and in their video games.  I know actual adults who are seriously preparing for the zombie apocalypse.  You must be cognizant of this when you get out of your truck and head into the arena.  I am always nonchalant about the show on the drive to the venue.  I’ve been to dozens of boat shows and can contain myself… until I get out of the truck and see the boats they always put outside to get you primed up.  At the sight of those metal-flake beauties I may stop talking in mid conversation.  My knees lock up, my eyes glaze over, my hands raise in front of me and I take on a shambling, dazed walk as I stagger toward the entrance.  I sometimes drool a little and moan “booooaaattttsss” as I stumble toward the doors.  If your kids are like mine they’ll start screaming at your wife, “shoot him mom!  Shoot him!  In the head!”  This may traumatize your kids a great deal to see dad turn into a boat zombie.  The real trauma, however, will be to your psyche when you to see how fast your beloved children are ready to put you down.

3.  You Probably Aren’t Going to Get a Boat

And by this I mean, you definitely aren’t going to get a boat.  You have to come to terms with this early.  It ain’t gonna happen.  If you’re a single guy and have any kind of job, you’re probably buying that bass boat.  But this guide is for the family man.  You have kids and those kids need braces, clothes, sports fees, cell phones and a million other things that you haven’t even thought of yet.  You’re son got in the car with new shoes that fit fine.  By the time you got to the boat show arena he outgrew them.  You can’t afford the new bass boat because you have responsibilities.


You have equal chances of getting any of these…

Here’s the biggest problem with that: you still want that boat really bad.  You may even feel like you might die if you don’t get it.  If you don’t get it right now.  You will forget your responsibilities the second your hand touches those 25 layers of gel-coat.  You will yearn to own that boat.  And then, you and your wife will argue about it.  You’ll claim that you can afford it and she’ll claim that the family should spend the money on really stupid things like car payments or groceries.  In the end you will consider approaching the salesman with a proposal to trade one of your children for the 19-footer with the 150 Mercury.  It will happen.  This doesn’t make you a bad father.  Actually, it does make you a bad father.  It makes you a terrible father.  But we’ve all considered it at one time or another.  Especially during potty training.  It’s O.K. as long as you don’t go through with it.

And if you do go through with it go for the 200 Mercury.

4.  Don’t Fall For It!

At one point you will see an absolutely gorgeous bass boat that calls to you like a lover in the night.  You will be hypnotized by its siren song and you will need that boat.  You’ll then look at the price tag and find out it’s almost as much as your house.  That’s no joke.  Some of the top end bass boats come close to $60K and in this market you can buy a pretty decent house in a pretty decent neighborhood for that.  Of course the boat gets up on plane quicker and trailers a lot better, but that’s a ton of money for something without a bathroom.

A salesman will see you running your hand lovingly across the gunwales of your dream boat and he will come swaggering up in all of his short sleeve shirt and tie glory.  He is the devil.  He doesn’t care about your kid’s braces and he doesn’t care that a Big Kids Meal will put you back almost $5.  He sees that look in your eyes and he smells a commission.  He’ll point out every feature of the boat.  He’ll get you up on the deck and have you sit behind the wheel.  It’ll feel awesome and you will picture yourself blasting across your local lake on the way back to the weigh-in with a live well full of fish.  That is when he will talk about financing.


It’s only a kidney…. you have two.  Let’s get some paperwork started!

I went to a boat show this year and saw a gorgeous bass boat with a 200 Mercury, a huge trolling motor, two electronic fish finders and a couple of power poles.  The sign next to this beautiful, bass catching behemoth said $399 a month.  I could afford that!  I think I could sell $399 a month to my wife!  As I was marveling that I could afford that monthly payment I noticed the tiny words at the bottom of the sign that read “144 months”.

That’s 12 years, boys.

5. There’s More to a Boat Show Than Boats

You’re not going to get a boat but that doesn’t mean you need to come away empty-handed.  Almost every boat show I have ever attended has had vendors that sell everything from apparel to fishing gear.  Here’s a proven formula for success:

Take your wife to the boats first.  Show her the best and the most expensive.  Let her see how much you want one and then tell the salesman that you’re just looking.  Be kind of rude about it like he’s trying to take food from your kids’ mouths.  When you leave the boats look a little disappointed.  Run your hand slowly along the boat one last time and when you walk away look back and sigh.

Now head to the fishing rod section.

At this point you’ve probably already proven you’re a pretty good guy.  You’re a hard worker and you want the best for your family.  Your wife will recognize this and feel bad that you can’t have your boat.  She loves you.  Use this crippling weakness to your advantage and pick out a nice rod.  There will be no argument about its purchase.  If there is, go back and start the financing on the boat because your wife is apparently a harpy that will eventually crush your soul and you should at least have a decent Ranger bass boat if you have a crushed soul.

6. Life Is Not Fair

We just talked about the fact that a boat show isn’t just about boats.  What you might be surprised to find is that boat shows have vendors that sell things like cookware and vacuum cleaners.  Things that have nothing to do with boats or fishing.  It’s an affront to God but it’s a fact of boat shows.  They have demonstrations and salespeople that might even put the short sleeve and tie guy at the boat dealer to shame.  What this means is that you might promise to clean the basement just to coax your wife out to the boat show.  You might commit to a trip to that McDonalds with the Play Place and funny-smelling ball pit so your kids will help get the little lady to the arena.  You might go to all of this trouble just to walk out of there with $200 worth of pots and pans and no boat.  If this happens just remember that you are a good guy and your wife is on potty training detail for the rest of the month.

I hope this helps you up-and-coming family men.  Some of you will take this advice and run with it.  You will keep your wife happy and won’t feel the shame and back pain of sleeping on a couch.  You won’t have to give away half of your money and figure out custody schedules.  And no, you won’t have a boat anytime soon.

And that’s the key.  Anytime soon.  Be  patient.  Wait them out.  Eventually those kids will hate living with you and move out.  The older you get, the less bills you have and one day you’ll turn around and there will be a sweet boat sitting in your garage.  Life will be great until your wife tells you about the craft show she wants to pop into “for just a few minutes.”

Don’t even get in the car unless she promises you ice cream.                         

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