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TODAY’S BOAT BUYER: Mariah 18.9 bowrider

Florida resident Bill Scannell spends a lot of time on the water, both for his job and for pleasure. As owner of Concorr Florida Inc., a concrete-corrosion consulting business, the engineer often finds himself in a 14-foot workboat inspecting bridges.

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But the boat he uses for his job became too cramped for family outings on the Indian River with his wife, Wendy, and daughters Katie, 14 and Lauren, 9. So Scannell bought a new Mariah 18.9 bowrider from Top Notch Marine in Melbourne, Fla.

"We had a blast, but the [work] boat was just inadequate. It's not designed for cruising," says Scannell, 47. "We had vacation plans, so we decided to go ahead and get another one."

Scannell says they visited two dealerships before going to Top Notch Marine, where they met dealer Jim Sabia.

"They had several different kinds of boats, but he sensed we didn't know what kind of a boat we wanted," says Scannell. "He told us that too many people get the wrong boat for the right price, so we sat with him as he asked us what we planned on using the boat for."

While Scannell likes to fish, he really wanted a versatile family boat that could also accommodate a few guests. Scannell and his family had previously owned an 18-foot pontoon boat, but because it could not be trailered, the storage and maintenance proved to be too much.

"The only advantage was that we were able to keep it at a marina that was within walking distance from our house," says Scannell. "But we were really looking for a family fun boat."

Scannell says Sabia was the first dealer to ask what they were looking for and included two years of maintenance and repair work with the purchase.

"The model is a 2010, but the motor [a 135-hp MerCruiser inboard] is a 2009, so the suggested retail was $26,898," says Scannell, who purchased the boat in March. "They were asking about $21,000 for it, and we added a few extra amenities, like a fishfinder and a few extra rod holders so, all told, we paid about $23,300."

Scannell says they were able to stay within their price range and didn't have to finance the boat, but he believes financing would not have been a problem, since the dealership was so accommodating.

"Jim was very knowledgeable and was very willing to share his knowledge, which was different from the other dealerships," says Scannell. "When he delivered the boat after it was purchased and did the sea trials with me, I learned new things, and I've been a boater since I was a teenager."

The dealer's support didn't end after the papers were signed. When Scannell returned from a recent vacation, they were able to answer questions about a noise his bilge pump was making and fixed some screws in the Bimini top that had come loose.

"They told me in the meantime they would put in replacement screws but, whenever I had time, would later drill bigger holes and put bolts in to make it more secure," says Scannell. "So far, all of my calls, questions and service needs have been rapidly and professionally addressed."

Scannell is among those who believe the economy will get worse before it gets better. However, he says if you have money to spend, it's an ideal time to buy that boat.

"If you're in the market for a boat and you can afford it, it's a very good time to be looking," says Scannell.

— Elizabeth Ellis

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