They say you can tell a lot about a person by the car they drive. And considering how many people, upon seeing my truck, immediately surmise that I own a boat, I’d have to say that’s true. Only the other day it happened again. A fellow at Shoprite glanced over as he loaded groceries into his sedan, his eyes lingering for a moment on my old red Dodge, (I’ll note the bed was devoid of a prop, shaft or rudder at the time,) and he chuckled. “Sailor?”
“Trawler,” I replied, though in fairness the truck dates back to my catboat days, and many traces of my true ragboat tendencies still remain. But as I shuffled tools to make space for my boat bags of groceries, I stepped back and regarded the truck to consider what it was that gave me away.
First off, the truck itself. A Dodge Dakota that I’d driven off the dealer’s lot two decades ago. Worn, scuffed and comfortable as a pair of old work boots, but still mechanically sound due to years of diligent maintenance and a spouse who can weld and machine parts no longer available. A great little truck, big enough to be functional but small enough to be practical. Once a strong seller, the number of aging Dakotas still on the road has steadily dwindled as their upkeep, not to mention the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program, took their toll and sent many of these sturdy little trucks off to the automotive glue factory. To us, that would have been like dumping the trusted and reliable old family dog at the pound to trade it in on a cute new puppy. Thanks, but no thanks.
So the old Dodge rumbles along, a testament to that sailing ‘fix it’ mentality. But there’s another clue, and this one is pretty straightforward. The bumper stickers. They’re rather self-explanatory, and even the non-boating ones make it fairly clear the driver has a warped sense of humor, which I believe is mandatory for anyone hell-bent on restoring any aging boat.
And for those who have spent too much time working on a boat, a quick look inside confirms any lingering suspicions: this is indeed a boater’s truck.
This is pretty much standard for what you’ll see in the cab. Tools and batteries. Parts catalogs. Mixing containers, work gloves, etc. Boat cushion on the driver’s seat, (I’m only 5’2″ and I like to look over the steering wheel, not through it.) And let’s not overlook the ‘trim’ on The Wand of Power…
Years back, I found myself waiting at a train station with time on my hands and some line in the cab. Ever since, it’s been a conversation piece whenever the truck goes to DMV for inspection.
But it’s not just me. I’ve noticed how automotive preferences among boaters break into some interesting but fairly consistent patterns. Go-fast powerboaters drive massive, powerful SUVs and superduty pickups, ones usually visible from space due to size as well as the vast amounts of chrome trim, or they lean towards flashy sports cars. Most sailors seem to prefer faded old Hondas, Subarus, or Volvos, especially in the station wagon configuration, usually with the rear seats folded down and loaded to the headliner with gear and a ladder strapped to the roof. Aging Ford Rangers or Mazda pickups are also a popular choice, as well as the occasional VW TDI, (my other car as well.)