MODERN LIVING: Dry-Land Cruise

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J. P. Morgan was once asked by a friend: "How much does it cost to run a yacht?" Boomed the great J.P.: "Sir, if you have to know how much it costs, you shouldn't own one." Last week, as the 43rd annual Motor Boat Show opened in Manhattan's Grand Central Palace, it was evident that Morgan's rule of thumb no longer applied. In the biggest show in history, 248 exhibitors displayed boats for every pocketbook—from $39.95 for a shrimp boat to $72,700 for a cabin cruiser.

For those who like to pinch pennies in their own workshops, the build-it-yourself business had the widest assortment of models yet. On view were 38 different models put out by seven kit-boatmakers, ranging all the way from 8-ft. prams to cabin cruisers. U-Mak-It Products, which had 15 models on show, also puts out a kit for a 23-ft. cabin cruiser (see cut} for $844 without motor, a saving of about $1,000 on the readymade model. Depending on the size, a home builder could slice as much as 60% from the price of a factory-made boat.

For other dollar-conscious sailors, there were also sailboats and cruisers from Canada, Britain and The Netherlands, most of them built at prices well under those of U.S. yards. Queen of the fleet was the 55-foot cabin cruiser Capri, built by First Export Association of Dutch Shipbuilders (FEADSHIP) in its Aalsmeer yards. One of a line of more than 30 pleasure craft FEADSHIP has constructed for U.S. buyers, the Capri will sell for $72,700, a saving of upwards of $20,000 over a U.S.-built boat of the same size. Already on FEADSHIP's books are orders for 30 more boats for U.S. buyers, from a $9,500 30-footer to a 122-ft. luxury cruiser.

Other eyecatchers:

¶ Plasti-Craft's streamlined XL-525, a 14-ft. Fiberglas-reinforced outboard runabout. Made of Owens-Corning Fiberglas and plastic, the hull needs no paint or calking (price: about $575). Other Fiberglas boats on display: Lunn Laminates' 18-ft. sloop, Challenger, Ray Greene & Co.'s 16-ft. sloop, Rebel.

¶ U-Mak-It's Everglasting and Kristal Kraft kits for owners who want to apply glass-fiber coatings to their own boat bottoms. Though the cost of coating a 16-ft. hull (roughly 40¢ per square foot) may run as high as $50, the companies say one coating is sufficient, leaves boats with a leakproof bottom that defies such things as fungus, barnacles and dry rot in fresh and salt waters.

¶General Motors' $2,500, 87-h.p. diesel engine, the smallest G.M. has ever made and suitable for a 26-ft. boat. G.M. claims it is safer and more economical than standard 100 h.p. ($600) gas engines, plans to turn out 5,000 of them this year.

¶The one-hand "twist-grip" handle for steering and speed control on almost all new models of outboard motors, some of which reverse the motor with a twist of the wrist.