Happy Stupid Boat Owners Syndrome

Published on May 5th, 2015

by Bill Sabanski
As I walk around boat yards, particularly during spring commissioning, I am aghast as to how many boat owners I encounter notice some sign of a potential problem with their boat but choose to ignore it. The reason is always the same: a set launch date to start their season, and no time allowance to deal with any issues not on “their list”. They make the conscience decision to ignore a small problem or defect as they don’t want to get an in-depth analysis of what the underlying problem may be which could delay their launch.

In this day and age, it constantly amazes me how many owners of new boats also overlook obvious defects in manufacturing, hoping for some miracle that will get it to go away. New boats come with problems; that’s the nature of the beast due to the lax oversight many manufacturers have during the build process. If you get a new boat and there is a problem, it’s a new boat so it can’t be that bad, right?

So what causes this mentality of plausible deniability on the boat owner’s part? I like to call it HSBOS – The Happy Stupid Boat Owners Syndrome.

If you see a problem but don’t ask what it is, or if you don’t know the full extent of it, it isn’t really a problem. There have been too many times I’ve seen boats launched and motored out of the marina, only to break down or suffer a major failure shortly thereafter. Most of the time the owner lucks out and the outcome isn’t so bad, but if not so fortunate, guess what? The insurance company picks up the bill for their stupidity. Only in boating!

The maritime laws in the USA are more so for the purposes of regulating and protecting those involved with commercial shipping. They are archaic and have very little application for recreational boating. They allow the manufacturers of boats to design and build questionable product and hide behind limited federal regulations of the industry to skirt responsibility as all recourse is through the federal courts. This applies to almost all other aspects of boat-related services as well, which offer few options for the consumer in the end. Why should they do a better job when you really have no remedy when they don’t?

Which brings us back to HSBOS, since you have no recourse, and the addressing the problems may delay your use of the boat, and if it is a real problem, your insurance covers your stupidity. Why not bet that luck will work out well in the end. Tragedy narrowly averted in general isn’t good boating practice, but often seems the norm.

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