There is nothing redeeming about a speedboat. It's loud, it serves no purpose other than to anger people not in it, it creates a huge wake that's obnoxious on the water and even on the beach and it violently slashes through manatees that bob near the surface of Miami's coastal waters.
There is even less that is redeeming about the kind of person who covets one -- or, worse, actually owns one. Speedboats are made exclusively for assholes.
A recent New York Times story leaves only one conclusion possible: that Marco Rubio is one such asshole. After years of financial struggle and mismanagement, the Times reported Tuesday, Rubio landed an $800,000 book advance. The paper tells us what happened next:
But at the same time, he splurged on an extravagant purchase: $80,000 for a luxury speedboat, state records show. At the time, Mr. Rubio confided to a friend that it was a potentially inadvisable outlay that he could not resist. The 24-foot boat, he said, fulfilled a dream.
Not Rubio's boat
The anecdote caps the lede of a much-discussed story that the Rubio camp has responded to aggressively. In its statement, the campaign did not take issue with any of the paper of record's facts. But it did inform the media, in the form of Politico's Dylan Byers, that the Times had one critical detail wrong: It wasn't a speedboat. Rubio bought a fishing boat. To be precise, an EdgeWater 245CC.
Perhaps to the Times, they are one and the same, but out in the world, the two aspirations couldn't be any further apart. The purpose of a speedboat is to give the rider an adrenaline rush and an ego boost at the expense -- or, perhaps, with the added benefit -- of offending everyone within earshot. It's for the man whose Hummer doesn't quite do it for him.
Coveting a fishing boat says something much different about a person: This is somebody who takes some time away from the world rather than flipping it the bird. It's somebody who wants a peaceful afternoon out on the water with his buddies or his family, drinking a beer, maybe or maybe not catching a fish. The responsible captain pilots it slowly near where manatees may be floating.
"The 24-foot boat," Rubio said, "fulfilled a dream." It's a dream that resonates deeply with the American middle class, and certainly in the hearts of South Floridians. According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, a trade lobby, more than 70 percent of U.S. boat owners have an annual household income below $100,000. Half of them have an income under $75,000.
The boat Rubio bought comes with a beer cooler already built in. It is, indeed, perhaps impossible to watch the promotional video for Rubio's boat -- as he no doubt did -- and not on some level want the thing.
Aspiring to own a boat is a much deeper aspiration than accompanies almost any other consumer purchase. It is a quest for, in a world that offers little of it, contentment itself -- what Aristotle called eudaimonia.
But is it a true fact that all speed boaters are assholes? HuffPost called an association that represents speed boaters, and put the stereotype to an official there to get his reaction. "It makes absolute sense. It makes perfect sense," he said, asking that he and his group not be named for obvious reasons. He suggested calling some boat dealers.
David Miller, with boat dealership InterMarine in Fort Lauderdale, sells a wide variety of boats and said that buyers of speedboats tend to be different. "If you were going to make a generalization I'd say these are people who live fast, live hard, have big ego, etcetera, etcetera," he said. "This is a macho kind of thing, a rah-rah."
But is the generalization accurate? "I would say it would be fairly accurate, to be honest," he said. "The people that I have known who have bought that type of boat... that's a market all unto its own."
Much of the need for speed is ego-driven. "They're sitting in the bar, it's, 'Well, my johnson's bigger than your johnson.' Now that doesn't necessarily mean the guy's an asshole. He's got a lot of money, so he's gotta be doing something right. But it's different."
Miller said he once had an opportunity to ride in a speedboat and understands the appeal. "Every old fart should have one of these [opportunities] at least once in his life. That feeling of raw power, you're just screaming through the water and the rooster tail is -- it's a feeling that is hard to describe unless you've actually been in one," he said. "Practical? Not a chance. Fun? You couldn't put a number on it."
But the market, mechanics and the customer are so different for speedboats, he said, that it is the only kind of boat his dealership doesn't sell. To get a more textured sense of what the buyers are like, he suggested talking to Randy Sweers of FastBoats Marine Group.
Sweers said there are plenty of good guys who own speedboats.
"I do own an actual offshore racing boat," he said. "The boat is called Racing for Cancer. We actually donate all these monies and provide awareness for cancer research. So I don't see how owning a big, bad speedboat is such a terrible thing."
Asshole, Sweers said, is an unfair term because the water is there for everybody to use as they see fit. "I always say, listen, the waterways are one of America's last great frontiers and whether you want to use the waterway or the ocean to go 100 miles an hour across the top of it, or if you wanna use it to catch some 5-pound fish or a 1,000-pound marlin, it's all based upon how you would like to use it. I guess you could still refer to the power boaters as the politically incorrect," he said. "Just like we can refer to sailboaters as rag hangers."
Sweers took the most issue with term "luxury," however. "Luxury at the $75,000 price point is certainly not a term that I would find descriptive and properly descriptive of a vessel in today's market," he said.
Paradoxically, the Times might find one man who by now -- or, if not by now, he'll likely get there -- agrees privately that the purchase, if not "extravagant," was an awfully bad investment: Marco Rubio. The dream of a boat is often more glorious than the reality: The amount of money you pay for keeping up and docking a boat is, famously, just the start of it, with incidental costs so varied and never-ending that the damn thing can nearly bankrupt you.
Rubio still owns the boat and takes his kids out on the weekends, no doubt a sheer pleasure. But the time will come that an old boating truism will assert itself. For a boat owner, there are two and only two great days in life: the day you buy the boat, and the day you sell it.
Dave Jamieson contributed reporting.
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