Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Marine Tax

It's Only Money
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
B.O.A.T. We've all heard the jokes. Bring Over Another Thousand. A hole in the water into which you throw money. My personal favorite is: “Owning a boat in the Pacific Northwest is like standing in a cold shower ripping up $100 bills.” And pretty much every boat owner knows that B.O.A.T currency is $1,000 per unit since everything seems to sell in increments of a thousand. But the underlying truth stems from the little known but widely applied Marine Tax. What? Never heard of that one? You know about income tax, sales tax, property tax, and estate tax, but you've never heard of the marine tax? Oh you poor fool.

You see, I am familiar with the Marine Tax because it is so similar to the Doctor Tax. The Doctor Tax is the premium charged for any item which is destined for a medical office simply because the purchaser is assumed to be both (1) richer than God and (2) stupid.

I will grant that assumption two is a gross oversimplification. The marketing gurus from the medical manufacturing companies do not sit in their board rooms musing, “Those doctors are such bone brain dead simpletons we can mark this up 400% and they will never know the difference.” No, I imagine it goes something more like this, “Those doctors are so busy and they make so much money, they will never pay any attention to the price, and it'll just disappear like piss in the Pacific Ocean into the insane amount they spend to keep their offices open.”

In the boating community, it is our very sense of humor that prevents us from rising up in a Yachting Tea Party to throw the bastards overboard. In the offices of the marine manufacturers, they are no doubt chortling, “Those boat owners are so busy making money to pay for their boats and telling jokes about how much all the equipment costs, they'll just suck it up and pay whatever we charge assuming that it's both fair and just and even noble to pay through the nose for our products.”

The Marine Tax can range from 10% to 500%. Need an example? You can purchase a WiFi amplifying antenna from a good marine broadband service provider for $300. You can purchase the identical unit from a Web site for gray hat, war driving, computer hackers for $70. And anything sold at an official boating store is going to cost twice as much as the exact same item available at a hardware store, WalMart, or online book store.

So in the long standing tradition of good Americans everywhere, I strongly advocate tax evasion whenever and where ever possible. Fortunately, for the clever, penny-pinching, tight-wad cruiser, there are many loopholes in the Marine Tax. And you won't need your tax accountant to find them. Just ask yourself a few questions every time you consider a purchase related to your boat:

Do I really need it?
I think Americans in particular have forgotten how to ask this most basic of questions, but it is perhaps the first and most important. Now that I've started asking, I'm routinely surprised how frequently the answer is, “Nope.” Just as you do not need matching his and her underwear, you also do not need perfectly fitted sheets, custom curtains, or hand crafted rugs. Your fenders do NOT need to all be the same size. They don't even need to be the same color. Don Quixote supplements our fender inventory nearly every time we go out with what the girls now refer to as “driftfenders”. Note: It is not necessary to color coordinate your lines, either.

Does the item look anything like something I can get at Home Depot?
One of the more environmentally friendly and cost effective ways to clean your fiberglass boat is with a bucket, a scrub brush and a box of baking soda. I did some price shopping online and you can buy all three items at your local marine store for $28.97 or from the local hardware store for $17.15. Do I really need to explain further?

Can I make the item from things I can get at Target?
A corollary to the Home Depot recommendation is that sometimes you can make small changes to an item and suddenly it goes from being land based stuff to Marine Grade Product. My favorite example of this is, believe it or not, plates. Turns out that a Marine Grade Plate is a plastic plate decorated with blue anchors and includes a gasket glued to the bottom. That's a pretty clever idea – the gasket, not the anchors which I find insipid – because it keeps the plates from slipping while in use and reduces their rattling while stowed. You can purchase one of these nifty plates from your marine store for $7.99 per plate. Of course, you could instead purchase a $1.99 plastic plate, a $.99 gasket, and a bottle of rubber cement. In addition to the obvious price advantage, you also get a wider choice than blue anchors or nautical flags.

Can I buy a lesser quality item multiple times instead of the marine grade item?
A boat combines electrical power plant, water treatment facility, transportation system, and hotel all in one small package that floats on the most corrosive substance on earth and shakes like maracas on a Saturday night in Cabo San Lucas. Everything in the marine marketing world is about convincing you to buy the ruggidized, indestructible, undissolvable, marine-tested, reinforced, sun-resistant, highly expensive widget. For example, let's take the 8-quart Super Bucket Fortex available for only $23.99. Looking like Darth Vader on the deck, this black beauty is “Reinforced for ruggedness. For extended use in demanding conditions. Constructed of fiber-reinforced natural rubber that won't crack, chip, dent or rust. The heavy gauge, double-galvanized handle lays neatly along the rim, where it's easy to grab.”

In sweeps our Ewok flower fairies at Backyard Style, this Plastic Utility Pail costs $4.99. It's “lightweight” and “ideal for calf feeding.” Better yet, it comes in eleven bright happy colors! Just call me Calf Feeder Girl!!

So with some cleverness, a bit of research, and a willingness to think outside of the boat, you too can shave dollars off sundry items essential for boating life. This month my efforts probably saved us close to $200!!

Which means in ten short months I will pay off the two B.O.A.T. dinghy Dr C bought last week at Strictly Sail.


Laureen said...

Oh my gosh, yes. We had great fun over the last two weeks in Puerto Rico, outfitting our new boat for delivery. We'd price stuff at WestMarine, then head over and get a superior item at WalMart, of all the godforsaken places. Our winner item was a spotlight/floodlight. Item was four times more at WestMarine than at WalMart. And that's no small chunk of change. =)

Anonymous said...

Hi Toasties or are you quixotics?

Your post would have been more funny if it weren't so true. We've been doing our share of boat projects too, some rigging, electrical stuff, autopilot. Fixing all the broken stuff, which is everything. I was steered to a good website by a neighbor and they had my rigging wire for 1.00/ft less than anyone else. Too bad HD doesn't sell norseman fittings! I hope you come down next winter to visit us. We plan on being in the islands this summer, from catalina up to SB. I don't know if you guys are planning on making your way down slowly, or just leaving and going straight into mexico from their. Thanks again for your hospitality in Bellingham. (I'll never use seaview again)

Arno and the gang on Makani Kai

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