Skip to main content
Original Issue


Despite his many admirable traits, Arnold Roth, an artist who works out of Princeton, N.J., simply will not be serious. When Roth says, "Real life is a magnacosm of sport," as all too frequently he does, he is just having fun with us. To Roth, great art is anything but sacred. Viewing an old master to which all Princeton recently paid homage, he remarked to a museum director, "Best picture I've seen since Deep Throat." Scanning a modern masterpiece by the eminent Robert Motherwell with Motherwell himself, he said, "Wonderful picture. Could you do it in green?" The really spooky thing about Roth—the more so because he is a man of sane and gentle mien—is that he says he paints exactly what he sees. On the eve of the winter boat show season, Roth offers here a sketchbook of the things he sees in New York's show. The irreverence of his approach may be excused in part by the fact that Roth has never been a yachtsman. "When I was a kid, who knew from boats?" he says complacently. "The one boat in my life was the ferry from Philadelphia. That only got me to Camden." The mature Roth voyages solely on the bays and rivers of his mind. That being the wondrous instrument it is, who can say Roth does not see what he says he does. Ah well, if you run into the Ancient Mariner outside the New York Coliseum, don't panic. Just say Arnold sent you.


Few activities in life can claim as many upright daydreamers as those glossy and seductive displays called boat shows. One's old boat may have been a good and faithful servant, but under the spell of the new, the urge to junk it tends to be overwhelming. When large numbers of these dreamers become doers by signing sales contracts, the boating industry anticipates smooth and profitable sailing in the year ahead. As this show season begins, the industry's nose for profits is fairly aquiver. It has just completed its "biggest year in history," the economy continues to be strong, boating is growing apace and there are more shows than ever. Indeed, it takes nearly four pages in The Boating Industry just to list the bare details.

Big shows are on right now in San Francisco and New Orleans and are coming soon to Chicago and Miami, but the one the industry will be watching most closely is the National show in New York, oldest and largest of them all. It runs from Jan. 26 to Feb. 4, and if it approaches the sales and crowds of that vintage year 1969, then 1973 should be boffo for boating biz. In '69 the New York show drew 421,800 people and reported $57.8 million in on-the-floor business. Attendance has declined in each succeeding year and sales bottomed out at $50.2 million in 1971 before rising to $56.4 million last year. In that boom year, if you will pardon a few more numbers, there were more than nine million boats on the water, utilized at one time or another by 46 million people, who spent a grand total of $3.9 billion on boats and services. In the sail vs. powerboat race the engines had it, as usual, with more than six million out- and inboards as compared with 690,000 sailboats. The latest phenomenon in shows—in-the-water events—apparently has stimulated sales without cutting into the crowds of the traditional in-house winter variety.

Every show has to have a "queen," i.e., the biggest hull one can stuff into a given building, and in New York it is a 46-foot Bertram motor yacht moored in mid-Coliseum. It has a fiber-glass hull, as most everything does these days, with that famous easy-riding Vee bottom brought out years ago by Designer Ray Hunt. Powered by two GM diesels, the Bertram will cruise from Palm Beach to Nassau and back without a fuel stop. Under way, its passengers may tune in a 21-inch color television or draw a bath in a "color coordinated" tub—a rare luxury afloat.

Judging by the big middle range of boats being offered this year—the fishermen, the small cruisers, the runabouts—there is a wholesome trend in design. Gaudy fins that served no purpose except to ape some of the auto industry's excesses have almost entirely disappeared, while safety materials, such as fire-retardant fiber glass, are coming in. Bayhead's 31-foot fisherman is an example—and contains enough non-sink stuff to keep the occupants above water if a major unpleasantness occurs.

The center-console fisherman continues to be a hot item. Two of the newest and most interesting are the redesigned 21-foot Outrage built by the folks who gave you the ubiquitous little Boston Whaler, and a 26-footer by Charlie Morgan. Morgan is the sailorman who built a boating empire (which he sold at a nice profit to Beatrice Foods) and campaigned unsuccessfully for the 1970 America's Cup defense with a sloop of his own design, Heritage. After a lifetime in sail he has switched to power as Boca Grande Boats. He leaves astern a sailboat field swarming with manufacturers of hulls 30 feet overall or smaller. This is the heart of the mass market. Most people just can't afford sailing auxiliaries that are much larger. If today's 30-footer costs as much as yesterday's 45-footer, well, designers have tried to provide as much usable room below-decks as was available in the larger craft, and there is no doubt they have made them easier to handle.

Biggest sailboat in the National is the Cruising 45, designed and built by Ted Irwin of St. Petersburg, Fla. As the name suggests, it is no racer, but a boat for the man who has at least $45,000 to spend and wants to poke around under sail in considerable comfort. The smallest sailboat, an Australian thimble called the Binks Dink, is 38 feet and thousands less. More typical of the day is a lusty little 27-foot sloop from O'Day that doubles as cruiser and racer. The "27" has bunks for five and relatively decent headroom for its size and, at $6,995 less sails, a favorable dollar-per-foot price tag. Alan Gurney, designer of the famed ocean speedster Windward Passage, is responsible for its lines, and now it becomes O'Day's flagship, 35,000 boats after Hull One.

Along with a new glitter, the boating year undoubtedly will bring new controls. Some are already on the books: maximum loadings for boats under 20 feet, stricter life-preserver regulations. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency intends that all boats with toilets be equipped with holding tanks by 1978—a massive and difficult undertaking. And some form of licensing for boatmen seems to be in the offing. For the moment, though, the show's the thing.



Roth portrays some handmaidens of publicity.


He peers in on the ultimate tire kicker.


And queues the customers for a product of his fevered mind.


Surely you've seen them: the sales sirens, the little old ladies in life jackets, the foot-through-the-boat clumsies, the sanitation detail, the houseboat that's a home. You say you haven't? Ah, well, keep looking and you will.


Better watch your step in a Rothian show or you'll end up in a slave ship.


Or perhaps look around and notice a species of under seas craft closing in.