A Sociology of the Jet Ski

Peter Wilson
Daniel Henninger's column in the Wall Street Journal reproduced the photograph of Mitt and Ann Romney on a jet ski in Lake Winnipesaukee, adding to the criticism that the photo made him look like an out of touch rich guy, akin to John Kerry windsurfing in lycra off Nantucket.

This may the message that gets propagated by the media to an unfortunate number of voters. In reality, however, the optics of a jet ski on a lake ought to communicate a middle class -- even working class -- tableau.

In New England, the part of the world I'm most familiar with, the out of touch rich don't summer on lakes. As a rule, they go to Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Bar Harbor and Newport. Henninger quotes past examples of presidential vacation homes: "the 'Kennedy compound' of legend at Hyannis Port, FDR's [...] Campobello, or ...Teddy Roosevelt's house at Sagamore Hill on Oyster Bay." All on salt water. Anyone can putt around on a pond; it takes skill (or a paid captain) to navigate dangerous ocean waters.

On salt water, the out of touch rich avoid plebian boats with motors, otherwise known as "stinkpots." Motorboats are for commercial fishermen and working class schlubs who don't know how to sail. The rich go out in sailing yachts, or at least they did until the Hinckley Company near Bar Harbor discovered that 75-year-old investment bankers don't always want to fuss with sails when they're serving gin and tonics on Somes Sound. Hence the popularity of $1 million Hinckley picnic boats.

On the bottom of the motor boat totem pole is the lowly jet ski, which might be a fun toy to keep on a davit on your 300 foot motor yacht, but as your sole means of water transport? Strictly for the plumbers and carpenters who trailer them down to the lake so they can annoy everyone with that awful whining sound. The more genteel Squam Lake, adjacent to Winnipesaukee, has banned jet skis.

A new jet ski can be purchased for $10,000, and used ones cost less than a good mountain bike. Remember, the jet ski is a cousin of the snowmobile and the four-wheeler ATV. The out of touch rich don't snowmobile -- they cross country ski or snowshoe. The out of touch rich don't ride four-wheelers; they hike. Heaven forbid!             

Daniel Henninger's column in the Wall Street Journal reproduced the photograph of Mitt and Ann Romney on a jet ski in Lake Winnipesaukee, adding to the criticism that the photo made him look like an out of touch rich guy, akin to John Kerry windsurfing in lycra off Nantucket.

This may the message that gets propagated by the media to an unfortunate number of voters. In reality, however, the optics of a jet ski on a lake ought to communicate a middle class -- even working class -- tableau.

In New England, the part of the world I'm most familiar with, the out of touch rich don't summer on lakes. As a rule, they go to Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Bar Harbor and Newport. Henninger quotes past examples of presidential vacation homes: "the 'Kennedy compound' of legend at Hyannis Port, FDR's [...] Campobello, or ...Teddy Roosevelt's house at Sagamore Hill on Oyster Bay." All on salt water. Anyone can putt around on a pond; it takes skill (or a paid captain) to navigate dangerous ocean waters.

On salt water, the out of touch rich avoid plebian boats with motors, otherwise known as "stinkpots." Motorboats are for commercial fishermen and working class schlubs who don't know how to sail. The rich go out in sailing yachts, or at least they did until the Hinckley Company near Bar Harbor discovered that 75-year-old investment bankers don't always want to fuss with sails when they're serving gin and tonics on Somes Sound. Hence the popularity of $1 million Hinckley picnic boats.

On the bottom of the motor boat totem pole is the lowly jet ski, which might be a fun toy to keep on a davit on your 300 foot motor yacht, but as your sole means of water transport? Strictly for the plumbers and carpenters who trailer them down to the lake so they can annoy everyone with that awful whining sound. The more genteel Squam Lake, adjacent to Winnipesaukee, has banned jet skis.

A new jet ski can be purchased for $10,000, and used ones cost less than a good mountain bike. Remember, the jet ski is a cousin of the snowmobile and the four-wheeler ATV. The out of touch rich don't snowmobile -- they cross country ski or snowshoe. The out of touch rich don't ride four-wheelers; they hike. Heaven forbid!