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Gas-hog boat doesn't fit Kerry's image

What kind of mileage does John Kerry's speedboat get and how is it relevant to the current campign? Howard Mortman reports.

In August 1990, during America’s other major deployment to the Persian Gulf, then-President Bush asked Americans to conserve energy. Midway through his 25-day vacation in Maine, a reporter asked President Bush if conserving energy included Fidelity, his recreational speedboat. Bush answered by urging Americans to keep their vacation plans, saying, "I'm going to keep using my boat, and I hope the rest of America will prudently recreate. "

Fast forward to the present. Another war in Iraq. Another Bush in the White House. Another spike in oil prices. And another boat — John Kerry’s. A boat that likewise inspires prudent recreation. And some media coverage. Meet the Scaramouche.

  • USA Today: "Kerry has a home on Nantucket and last year bought his own vessel, a 42-foot fiberglass powerboat, the Scaramouche."
  • New York Times: "a guy whose 42-foot powerboat, the Scaramouche, sells for upward of $700,000." (David Brooks column).
  • Washington Post: "We've certainly had some fun with the Scaramouche," Kerry's 42-foot-long powerboat, said Christine Iverson, the RNC spokeswoman."

Fun indeed. Citizens United took aim at Kerry’s boat in this TV ad: "Forty-two-foot luxury yacht: one million dollars."

With water and boats ranking among favorite Kerry’s favorite recreations, it was only a matter of time before The Onion would chime in. Here’s The Onion’s satirical take from earlier in the primary: "KERRY MAKES WHISTLE-STOP TOUR FROM DECK OF YACHT — Democratic frontrunner Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) began a seven-day, eight-state whistle-stop tour Monday, addressing a group of Frigidaire factory workers from the all-teak deck of his 60-foot luxury motor cruiser. ‘George W. Bush put tax cuts for the wealthy and special favors for the special interests before our economic future,’ Kerry told the crowd gathered below the starboard side of The Real Deal II. ... Campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill said Kerry's whistle-stop tour is scheduled to take him through Pennsylvania, Ohio, and on to six Midwestern states at an average speed of 26 knots. Apart from a brief detour into Lake Michigan between Milwaukee and Chicago, the yacht will travel exclusively on land, attached to a drydock-mounting slip atop a highway-legal flatbed trailer."

But for Kerry, a decorated Navy lieutenant who patrolled the Mekong Delta in a swift boat during the Vietnam War, the water is no laughing matter. The Boston Globe has reported that Kerry has "had powerboats since he was a teenager." The Boston Herald reported in 1996 on Kerry’s "a 200-horsepower SeaCraft powerboat valued at $20,000." And the Associated Press ran this paragraph in April: "Records of John Kerry's Vietnam War service released Wednesday show a highly praised naval officer with an Ivy League education who spoke fluent French and had raced sailboats — the fruits of a privileged upbringing that set him apart from the typical seaman."

But does Kerry’s Scaramouche (note: according to the New York Times, "Scaramouche," the story of French Revolution swashbuckler, was Kerry’s favorite film as a boy) set him apart from the first President Bush’s Fidelity?

According to a Boston Globe account in 2003 of the Cape, "Kerry is either in a fast runabout, a la Bush 41 up in Kennebunkport, Maine, or a windsurfer, which absolutely confounds his political image from a boating viewpoint."

A gas hog
Something else that might confound his political image is the Scaramouche’s fuel efficiency. Speedboats are gas hogs. The Fidelity got 2 mpg and the Scaramouche probably gets less than one (The Scaramouche, according to the Boston Herald, is a Hinckley powerboat. A 44-foot version, according to, has a fuel capacity of 500 gallons, and a range of 340 nautical miles, or .68 MPG. Hinckley no longer makes the 42-foot boat.)

Kerry is a strong advocate of energy independence and raising the corporate average fuel economy standards (CAFÉ) for cars. According to the Associated Press, Kerry supports increasing existing fuel economy standards to 36 mpg by 2015 in order to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil supplies. But there’s nothing comparable to CAFÉ for boats, no "boat fuel economy rules."

In Portland, Ore., on May 25, Kerry said, "When gas hits $2 a gallon, we just don't pay for it at the pump. We pay for it in our towns and our schools and our grocery stores."

And on the high seas. Perhaps it’s time for CAFÉ standards for boats? Might be prudent.

Howard Mortman is a producer for "Hardball with Chris Matthews."