Baby Boomer Boaters

swim platform
Swim platforms and swim ladders are valuable boating accessories especially for Baby Boomers looking to take it easy.

No one likes the idea of growing old. And the physical reality for the seventy-six million Americans that the U.S. Census Bureau estimates were born during the so-called Baby Boom from 1945 to 1964 is that many of these folks are quickly nearing retirement age. Maybe that is why my last blog on right–sizing your boat got some interesting comments, particularly about older boaters’ needs. I thought I’d give some specifics on how we can further outfit the “right boat” and adapt our boats as we age.

Wikipedia states that as a group, Baby Boomers are the wealthiest, most active, and most physically fit generation to date in our country’s history, and amongst the first to grow up genuinely expecting the world to improve with time. So it is no wonder that we’d expect better boating products to be marketed to us (yes, I’m a Boomer), especially considering our financial status.

Also according to Wikipedia, Baby Boomers control over 80% of personal financial assets in the U.S. and more than 50% of discretionary spending power. They are responsible for more than half of all consumer spending, purchase 77% of all prescription drugs, 61% of over-the-counter medication, and 80% of all leisure travel.

So, in addition to taking a few more Ibuprofen after a strenuous day on the water than younger boaters might, baby boomer boaters should explore what onboard equipment, added to the right boat, will make it easier to keep on boating well into retirement age.

step box
Customized box steps make great gifts for the boomer in your life.

Here’s my list of items that are great for any boater but may become more necessary for older boaters.

  • Better lighting – see my blog on LED lighting
  • Reading and magnifying glasses  – and better binoculars
  • More handrails strategically placed
  • Walk-thru transoms, boarding steps, and boarding gates
  • Power winches
  • Anchor windlasses
  • Furling sails, stack packs
  • Bowthrusters
  • Dinghy davits
  • Gauges with BIG displays
  • Swim platforms

Please send along your suggestions for additions to this list.  We can’t change the reality of aging, so we might as well adapt—and keep active as long as we can by whatever means possible.

According to the 2011 Associated Press and LifeGoesStrong.com surveys, 42% of Baby Boomers are delaying retirement because of the economic crisis and 25% claim they’ll never retire (currently still working). Maybe the old adage about Captains applies to Baby Boomer boaters too: “They don’t stop boating, they just get a little dinghy.” The good news is, buying some equipment can make it easier and all the more enjoyable.

Top Five Sunglasses for Boaters

Editor’s Note: After a decade of testing, Lenny Rudow chooses his favorite eye protection for a day of fishing. Read the full post on the Boats Blog.

If you wanted to pick out the best five sunglasses for boaters, you would have to try dozens of pairs from companies including the likes of Costa Del Mar, Oakley, Ocean Waves, Onos, and WilyX—and then try dozens of pairs from a long list of different manufacturers. It would take a lot of time, money, and effort.

These sunglasses, from Costa del Mar, Oakley, Ocean Waves, Onos, and WilyX, make the top 5 list.
These sunglasses, from Costa del Mar, Oakley, Ocean Waves, Onos, and WilyX, make the top 5 list.

Unless, that is, you’re a boating writer. In my case, sunglasses like these appear in the mailbox on a regular basis for testing and reviewing. And in the past decade I’ve tested over 30 different pairs intended for use on the water. Here are my top five picks.

1. Costa Del Mar Jose – These get a spot in the top five despite a painfully high $259 price tag, because the optics are just plain awesome. Put on a pair, and the world seems just a little more lifelike than it does to the naked eye. They’re available with either glass or plastic lenses; the plastic is lighter but more prone to damage, and to my eyeballs, the glass provides a better view in the first place.

2. Oakley Wind Jacket – The Wind Jacket model includes a snap-in gasket that turns the glasses into mini-goggles. This makes them ideal for boaters who cruise at fast speeds, since the wind can’t creep around behind them and sweep the glasses off your face. Meanwhile, they have a hydrophobic coating that prevents water streaks, Plutonite lenses with good optics, and include lenses for both bright and low light conditions. Cost is $220. Oh yes—and they look uber-cool, too.

3. Ocean Waves Boston – If I had to pick an all-time favorite, this would be it—after returning my test pair I liked them so much, I went out and bought my own. The optics are stunning, especially the blue lenses in offshore waters, and the price is reasonable. These glasses remained my favorite through 10 years of salty use and though the frames needed replacement (which Ocean Waves did under warranty) the lenses never gave out. Unfortunately, Ocean Waves stopped producing the Boston model last year—bummer—but the ($159) Kauai and ($139) Madrid are close.

Read the rest of The Best Five Sunglasses for Boaters