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Boat owners sailing into sale season


You can buy the Naughty Lass or put money down on the Great Dog, but Snake Eyes is off limits and Hope has no asking price.

All four boats were stored in cradles at marinas in Shady Side and Galesville, the objects of desire for boaters who sell and resell used craft in an annual spring ritual along the Chesapeake Bay. The deal-makers see the season as a time to launch themselves into something extraordinary.

"Bigger and better, that's what we want," said Joe Ketterer, who is selling his 42-foot motor yacht docked in Shady Side. "My wife didn't like the last one."

The official shopping season begins today at City Dock in Annapolis with the annual spring boat show. There, bidders and browsers will check out more than 150 new and used boats. The show, which ends Sunday, features hand-me-downs that include speedboats, sport fishermen, and multihull and monohull sailboats.

In early April, newspaper classified sections begin to fill with advertisements promising the ultimate dream boat. Owners begin sending their boats down the river with "For Sale" signs on their hulls. Still more wait patiently while a tide of buyers floats through boatyards looking for deals.

Chad Muse is confident that he will quickly sell the Bilge Rat, his 19-foot Silverline motorboat. "Even though it sunk last week, it's a really good boat," he said. The Bilge Rat sank after its outboard motor got stuck in the mud at low tide and didn't free itself as the tide returned.

Mr. Muse, a mechanic at Parrish Creek Marina in Shady Side, said he hopes to get $650 for the boat. "It's a fixer-upper. I was just kind of hoping someone would come to the marina and snatch it up," he said. "It's a great deal."

Boat vendors, still recovering from the effects of the recession and a short-lived luxury tax in the early 1990s, say that sales of used boats indicate the overall good health of the marine industry.

Used-boat brokers tell stories of customers going through 20 or 30 vessels in a lifetime.

But some boaters stick to their craft like barnacles and mourn the day they have to say goodbye.

"It's going to be so lonesome not having our own boat out here," said Priscilla Kluckhuhn, 73, who is trying to sell the family's powerboat because her husband, Fred, lost the vision in his left eye and could not back the cruiser into the pier at their waterside home in Annapolis.

Tony Scrivener, a part-owner of Parrish Creek Marina, said the biggest reason people sell their boats is that many never venture from shore.

"I don't think 80 percent of the people even use their boats," he said. "Why they even buy them is beyond me."

Whether a boat is made of concrete, whether it has no engine or whether it is covered with rust, someone will buy it, he said.

"There isn't a boat out there that wouldn't sell if the price is right," Mr. Scrivener said. "You can get a bid on anything."

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