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Candidates at the Helm
The View from the Marina

By Barbara Hansen
Posted Feb. 4, 2008

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If you could choose a boat for each of the U.S. presidential candidates which type of boat would you choose for him or her?

I’ve always tilted toward presidents who, in my mind’s eye, are in a boat. George Washington crossing the frigid Delaware with his soldiers in the dead of night makes him a star forever in my imagination. Teddy Roosevelt paddling a canoe down racing rivers is a boating hero, too.

FDR planning D Day on the USS Sequoia is locked in my memory. JFK racing his PT109 is also. I remember seeing a picture in the newspaper of George Herbert Walker Bush holding up a striped bass caught from his Cigarette. I prefer to picture him as an Air Force fighter pilot.

So what kinds of boats do you see our current candidates piloting, and does it look like they know what they are doing at the helm?

I know that at least two really are boaters. Mitt Romney and his sons were applauded a few years ago for jumping on their personal watercraft vessels and racing to the rescue of a family whose boat had swamped. I read that John Edwards, who was about to become John Kerry’s running mate, ran aground at night in his boat with a Kerry advisor aboard.

But other than that, what we see is what we get, and we gotta guess.

I know Sen. John McCain was in the U.S. Navy but he flew a fighter jet. Now in my mind he pilots a classic single engine trawler, his labor of love. Its name is Neversaydie.

Here comes a go-fast Scarab, black with red flames painted along the hull. There goes Rudy Giuliani. Was that a big gold chain around his neck or a gold necktie? This boat is called Flame Out.

Mike Huckabee has invited friends for a Sunday ride in his pontoon boat. They are tooling around the Lake of the Ozarks on a hot, Arkansas day, cooling off with lemonade.

I see Romney at the helm of a classic yacht with lots of varnished teak and polished brass. He buys his crew matching polo shirts embroidered with the name of the boat. The name on the stern is Capital Management. Cradles and davits hold a bevy of PWCs plus an inboard ski boat. All ready to launch and run on a whim.

I gather that John Edwards was able to tilt the lower unit up and power his boat off of that Carolina low country mud flat. The picture is kind of fuzzy but I think it’s a walkaround cuddy. The name on the side is not clear. Something like Class Warfare.

Barack Obama is in a Harvard rowing scull with a collegiate crew in matching shorts and polo shirts with cable-knit letter sweaters tied preppie style around their necks.

Hillary Clinton has hired a captain and a crew to take her here and there in a no-wood-whatsoever fiberglass motoryacht. Intercoms connect two master staterooms, one marked “Hill” and the other “Bill.”

I can’t help it. Ron Paul is rowing a dinghy with one oar. Dennis Kucinich is drifting in the main channel in an inflatable that’s losing air and he’s screaming Look at me! Look at me!

George Washington is still my captain.

Barb Hansen is proprietor of Southwest Florida Yachts (charters) and Florida Sailing & Cruising School (liveaboard courses.) Contact her at, phone 1-800-262-7939 or visit

© 2001-2007. Southwest Florida Yachts. All rights reserved.

The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of's staff or ownership.

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