Boat Overspending Compulsive Disorder: An Unrecognized Mental Illness

Do you suffer from this common boating malady? Read on to see if you have the symptoms.

17th June 2013.
By Jonathan Russo

Recently the 5th edition of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders was published, which is the bible of the mental health industry. Before you dismiss the DSM as unimportant, consider this: with a DSM diagnosis you can receive legal protection and medical reimbursement for treatment. But once again, this newest edition left out BOCD, which affects my household and many others.

What is BOCD? It’s Boat Overspending Compulsive Disorder, wherein the patient is powerless to stop spending more money on upgrading a boat far beyond what could possibly be justified economically.

I have BOCD. I’m ill; it’s not my fault.

OverSpending-Disease

If you’ve used the phrase “no expense spared” to describe your boat, you might have BOCD.

This disorder is easily identified by reading boat listings. Here’s an example: “Over $1.4 million in upgrades in the last few years,” followed by an asking price of $1.1 million. The original hull is free, and you get a discount on the improvements! Does that make sense to you? Is that rational?

As someone who has sold three yachts over the last thirty years, each time failing to recoup any of my upgrades costs, I know how painful this can be. Yet I keep doing it… the most easily diagnosed symptom of a compulsive disorder!

The following key phrases in boat listings will indicate BOCD: “complete refit in last two years”; “no expense spared”; “blank check”; and one that might not be so obvious: “knowledgeable owner.” These codes are all well-known to fellow BOCD sufferers.

Like other mental disorders, the pain and suffering from BOCD usually affects the patient’s entire family. My wife’s incredulity and disappointment at my BOCD has forced me into the unfortunate position of offering up compromises and rationalizations, familiar territory to anyone with an addiction. I’ll even share a few with you, dear reader. If you are affected with BOCD or know someone who is, I know you will understand. These are just mine. Do not try these at your home.

I started off by claiming need.

  • The hull color has faded; it needs a new Awlgrip job.
  • I need new electronics; I could get lost at sea.
  • I need a new dodger window, because I can’t see through the old one. Ditto hatches and port lights.
  • The toe rail needs to be revarnished, or it will rot away.

When my wife systematically rejected these and many many other rational upgrade suggestions, I turned to the compromise strategy.

One deal worked for several years. I offered to deposit into her account a like amount of money for her equestrian habit. I figured that drawing her into my BOCD orbit with cash incentives would somehow neutralize her anger and might even encourage her to support my BOCD. After all, the original upgrade budget made no sense, so why not double down? The yard bills were so out of whack with the value of the yacht in the first place, even twice the price seemed fair.

We had a long run with this deal, while she bragged to her friends about all the money piling up in her account.

But when even that string ran out, I was forced to turn to the worst of all behavioral symptoms: the dreaded “rationalization,” the last and final straw in BOCD land. It went something like this: “Sweetheart, this yacht is my happiness, my joy. I don’t gamble in Vegas, snort cocaine, pay for sex, or even buy expensive clothes. We’re not in debt, we lack for nothing and we have money in the bank. See how otherwise sane and responsible I am? So, please, the boat needs that new turbo-diesel upgrade.”

This approach seems to be working. I am on my fourth yacht and just completed a massive upgrade on her (she turned 20 and needed a “knowledgeable owner refit”). And the fight seems to have gone out of the dog (my wife).

My name is Jonathan. I have BOCD. And I am enjoying every minute of my time on the water.

Let’s all hope the 6th edition of the DSM covers BOCD. That way, next year my health insurance would cover that new tuna tower I need


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About the author:

Jonathan Russo

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Jonathan Russo has been addicted to sailing for at least 30 years. He sails out of Shelter Island, NY and has owned several boats; his current boat is a Sabre 38. He has sailed the New England coast, the Caribbean, and in 2004 he participated in an expedition around Cape Horn. He has written articles on sailing for Downeast and Messing about in Boats, and for 7 years he was the yachting correspondent for the Shelter Island Reporter.

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