Given the number of news stories that go live on speedonthewater.com every week, I wouldn’t be surprised if you missed last week’s article about Baja Marine entering into an agreement with Freedom Boat Club to provide outboard-engine-powered 247 Islander models to the organization, which has 8,000 members and 82 locations. Or maybe you read it and simply dismissed it as a clever way for the Washington, N.C., company to sell more boats.Nothing wrong with that—Baja could use a few more sportboat sales. Come to think of it, despite what appears to be a gradual rebound of the high-performance segment of the marine industry what go-fast boat company couldn’t?
But to see Baja’s arrangement with the club, which gives its members access to a range of boats from runabouts to cruisers, as nothing more than a means for the company to move more product misses the bigger picture. Freedom Boat Club members pay an annual fee plus monthly dues for access to powerboats when they feel like heading out on the water. By their very nature, they’re not experienced, dedicated boat owners.
Instead, they are the rarest of commodities in the powerboat world—new blood. And if you think new blood is easy to come by in any segment of the boating market, much less the go-fast segment, you need to talk to a few industry people. In the go-fast realm, my friends, new blood is like gold—only far more rare.
A 24-foot Baja powered by a 300-hp outboard isn’t going to a impress a serious high-performance powerboat enthusiast. You’ll get no argument here on that. But for a Freedom Boat Club member with little to no go-fast boat experience it’s going to be mighty impressive. It might even be a mind-blower. And that might even translate to new blood coming not just into the powerboat world, but into the high-performance segment of that world.
Ten years after that first thrilling afternoon in a 24-foot Baja, he could be the proud owner of 39-foot Cigarette V-bottom or a 38-foot Skater catamaran.
Pie in the sky notion? Maybe, but I lean toward optimism and hope (not particularly common in my profession, I know). Then again, it’s awfully easy to sit back on the sidelines and reflexively say something won’t work. Quarterbacking is easy when you’re nowhere near the ball.
To that way of thinking, I counter with an expression from my good friend Scott Sjogren, the owner of Pier 57 Marine, the nation’s most successful high-performance new and pre-owned powerboat dealership:
‘If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got.'”
Baja is at least trying to do something different. And whether it works or not, I applaud it.