TODAY’S BOAT BUYER: Cobalt 276 sportboat

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First-time boat buyer Scott Powell has a high-stress job as a senior engineering manager at The Boeing Company in Seattle, and a high-stress hobby as a race-car driver. So, to relax, he recently purchased a 2009 Cobalt 276.

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"I always wanted to buy a Cobalt, but the price was a little high, and I could never justify it," says Powell, 48. "But this market has offered the ability to negotiate stronger than in the past."

After hearing from friends about the deals to be had, Powell attended the Seattle Boat Show, which ran from Jan. 23 to Feb. 1, and found his dream boat.

He says he wanted an aesthetically pleasing boat that would be big enough to accommodate six or seven people comfortably for a day on Lake Washington. A resident of Kirkland, Wash., he has been working for Boeing since 1985 and is in good standing with his company, so he believed now was the time to buy.

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"I've never been a boater, but I have gone out with friends. Living in the Pacific Northwest and our lack of sunshine, it didn't seem worth it," says Powell. "But I wanted something I could do to relax with my friends who weren't into racing that much, and I've always liked the look and the quality of Cobalts."

Powell says he was impressed by the ergonomics of the 276, as well as the high standard of engineering behind it. He says he also liked the fact that it's powered by a single 375-hp 8.1 Volvo Penta engine. A twin-engine boat would've been much more expensive.

He met Justin Burrow of dealer Seattle Boat Company at the show and says he was easy to work with. The hard part, he says, was financing the $100,000 boat.

"I've had a mortgage for 20 years, and I have a perfect credit score at 801, but it was insurmountable," says Powell.

He had opted for a 20-year loan, but many banks wanted him to hand over a down payment of 25 or 30 percent. He negotiated a down payment of 20 percent and financed the boat at an interest rate of nearly 7 percent.

"It really shocked me how hard it was [to get financing]," says Powell. "But I guess because [banks] consider it a luxury item they're more careful."

As added incentives for the hassle, Seattle Boat Company threw in a transom shower and a cockpit heater at no charge. The dealership also gave him free dry-rack storage at its facility on Lake Union for the first six months and $50 off for the following six months.

"I'll probably be using it 95 percent of the time on Lake Washington with my friends," says Powell. "There's a little cut that connects it to Lake Union."

Powell says when he wants to use the boat, he calls the dealership an hour ahead of time, and they launch it for him.

"They're great people. They would've scheduled a sea trial for me, but I bought it at the show because I'm the type of person who knows what they want immediately," says Powell. "Two weeks after the show we had a beautiful Saturday. Justin took it out on the water with me and went over the whole thing for two-and-a-half hours and taught me how to dock it properly."

Powell says he had heard going into the Seattle show that there were deals to be had and, indeed, he spent less than he anticipated.

"I think the better price breaks are the deciding factor," says Powell. "The economy is in bad shape, and there is a lot to be done to correct it. But I think the press is doing a lot to keep it in bad shape."

— Elizabeth Ellis

l.ellis@soundingspub.com

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