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The adjustment to a shrinking boating universe

The downward trajectory in boat registrations comes as no surprise to people such as Jack Ellis, who makes his living working with numbers and spotting trends and patterns.

Resgistrations for boats fell for the second consecutive year in 2011, to about 12.17 million boats. That represents a decrease of about 265,000 from 2010, when the numbers dropped by about 2.3 percent (282,000 boats) — the largest decline in 15 years. On the bright side, participation that year was up substantially, from about 65 million adults to 75 million.

Until that point, registrations had essentially been flat for more than a dozen years. Since the high-water mark of 12.9 million boats in 2005, we’ve seen a drop of about 700,000 registered boats, give or take. The exact numbers are a bit squishy for various reasons, Ellis says, but there is no mistaking the general downward trend. Nor should there be any real surprise.

“It’s a simple matter of mathematics here,” says Ellis, managing director of the Miami-based market research and analytics firm. Despite the large number of older boats still on registration rolls, we’re not adding new boats fast enough to offset the equally large number of old boats being sidelined, scrapped or mothballed. “We’re no longer adding to the fleet at the same rate that we’re losing them out the other end,” he says.

Ellis sent me a graph that shows the number of boats currently registered by model year, which I published on my Jan. 16 blog. “As you can see, there is still an average of almost 400,000 currently registered boats that are between model years 1995 and 2006,” Ellis explained in an email. “During this period we were adding 400,000 to 500,000 new units per year — some are now gone — and maintaining a total fleet of about 12.5 million boats.”

That was the point of stasis. “Today,” Ellis continues, “we are adding less than half this many, so the total fleet is slowly shrinking in size.”

Ellis expects the number of registered boats for 2012 to dip below the 12 million mark, taking us back to 1996 levels, according to Coast Guard figures. The direction may be clear, but the narrative of what the numbers mean and where things are going tomorrow and five to 10 years from now, of course, is more difficult to frame. And it’s subject to more variables, chief among them the speed and strength of the economic recovery and future economic growth, not to mention the shifting demographics we’ve been highlighting for some time.

Still, some 12 million registered boats, give or take, is an awful lot of boats — to service, maintain, resell, store, upgrade and so on. The new normal will see a smaller but healthier industry. Going forward, successful companies will continue to reposition and right-size themselves, as the math, the numbers and customers dictate. And there certainly will be a market for quality legacy brands produced by companies (most of them small) with little debt, running lean operations and mindful of the lessons of the past.

The aging fleet and lack of late-model used boats is helping to drive new-boat sales, which climbed to a healthy 10 percent in 2012. Projections for this year are between 5 and 10 percent. That’s good news.

Other factors also will play a significant role in our future. Our customer base is aging along with their boats. The average powerboat today is about 21 years old and the average sailboat about 28, according to Ellis. The average boat owner is in his or her early 50s.

As NMMA president Thom Dammrich is quick to point out, there are now more boaters in their 50s and 60s and fewer in their 30s. On the plus side, boating participation rose in five of the last six years (up to 82 million people), and Dammrich is hopeful that future demand will follow the increase in participation.

Given what the Great Recession (and the subsequent slow recovery) did to many baby boomers’ retirement savings, not to mention their attitude toward the financial markets, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if a fair number of boating boomers slip off into the sunset on their current boats, upgrading and maintaining them as necessary. And if they have room to move smaller without dramatically altering their lifestyle, they are doing that, as well.

The slow job growth of the last two years remains worrisome. We lost 7.479 million jobs in the recession and have gained about 3.518 million in the recovery, according to The Wall Street Journal.

And the long-term economic forecast is anything but clear. After growing at an average annual rate of 3.6 percent from 1950 through 1999, the U.S. economy has since slowed to less than 2 percent, raising questions about whether the economic salad years we saw after World War II will return, according to a recent account in the Journal.

U.S. economic growth might top out at 3 percent during the next five to 10 years, with unemployment sitting somewhere north of the 5.7 percent average recorded in the last half of the 20th century, the WSJ reports.

You play the hand you’re dealt. For the moment, the boats and the boaters aren’t getting younger, which is providing both challenges and opportunities.

The longevity, utility and value of well-built, well-maintained fiberglass boats will continue to provide competition for the new-boat market, which must continually excite its customer base with new, innovative product, including the next generation of smart entry-level boats. A number of builders certainly have done that with the product they’ve introduced in the past 12 months. There is plenty more opportunity here.

And we must do all we can to attract a new generation of boaters, one that is both younger and more diverse than in the past. More Hispanics, more African Americans, more Asians, more women and younger families. There is opportunity here, as well.

“The strong,” Ellis says, “will survive and thrive.”

Sisson, William “The adjustment to a shrinking boating universe”, WEB 01 Feb 2013

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Tips For Boating In Shallow Water


One of the best bits of boating advice I’ve ever heard was from a crusty old fishing guide as we headed out of a marina near Key West, Florida. As we carefully navigated through the notoriously shallow waters, he pointed to a group of birds walking in the water only a few yards away from the tiny channel we were passing through. He said, “Never assume the birds have long legs.”

While you should always be aware of your surroundings when you’re at the helm, you should be on full alert whenever you’re entering an area with shallow or “skinny” water. Whether it’s an area that’s filled with boat-crunching coral like Key West or a muddy tributary to the Mississippi River, a cavalier attitude can get you grounded, stuck or worse. But with a little common sense and the following tips, you can boldly cruise skinny water with confidence.

•Check The Soundings
Although boat electronics were once priced out of the reach of many average boaters, today there are lots of reasonably priced devices out there to help in shallow-water situations. For most folks, it will be a depth finder. But if your conditions are extreme, it makes sense to consult a chart…either electronic or paper. They contain valuable information called “soundings” that show the depths of any particular area you may be traveling. What you’re really looking for are the areas where the water suddenly gets shallower. Steer clear of those areas.

•Know Your Limits
By all means, know your boat’s draft. That’s a number, normally measured in inches, that tells you how much of your boat is underwater, from the lowest part of your boat up to the waterline. The easiest (and most accurate) way to get this information is from your owner’s manual or the boat manufacturer’s website. In a pinch, you can estimate this number by dividing the overall length (measured from bow to stern at the waterline) by two. Keep in mind that unless you’ve got a jet drive, you’ll also have a spinning prop or two at about that depth, so always trim up when things start to get shallow.

•Read The Water
This is where those high-tech polarized sunglasses really earn their keep. As you’re underway, you’ll be able to see a variety of different colors under the water. Look for drastic changes in color, and always be aware that darker usually means deeper. Some parts of the country have little jingles to help you remember such as: Brown, brown, run aground. White, white you just might. Green, green, nice and clean. Blue, blue, sail on through.

•Know The Tides
Even if you got through some skinny water yesterday without incident, you always need to check the tide schedule before trying it again. Many coastal areas deal with a significant tidal change of up to several feet, making low tide extremely treacherous when you’re shoving off. Worse still, you could snake your way to some great flats fishing, then find yourself stranded for hours until the tide comes back in. Don’t let this happen to you!

•Slow Down
Unless you’re cruising on a pontoon, more than likely your boat has what’s called a “planing hull.” That means it will sit lower in the water until you reach an “on-plane” speed, which is different for every boat. Once on plane, your boat will lift and rise up out of the water, giving you a little more shallow-water clearance from the bottom. The problem is, if you’re running at planing speed and suddenly come up on a shallow area, your reaction will likely be to pull the throttle back completely. That can run you aground (as the boat drops off plane) or worse. Just run slowly and stay off plane if there’s a chance of shallow water. Better to bump something and be able to back off gently than run aground hard and risk damage to you, your passengers or your boat.

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Awash in the ocean hanging onto your boat and a brush


I’ve been on the losing side of getting thrown about while attempting to clean my boat. Odd angles and swimming while the currents are trying to carry me away from the boat while I’m attempting to scrub any buildup from her hulls. I’ve tried hanging a rope off the side of the boat and holding it while waving wildly to scrub, only to find myself drifting aimlessly while missing the purpose of cleaning the hulls to a fine finish. Any sailor worth his while, knows this pain.

I recently sold my catamaran and had pulled it out of the water to have engines rebuilt and to finish the prep for the new owner. After pulling my boat from the water, I was so happy to find it to be so clean. My main deck hand used the Christmas gift I’d bought him 2 months ago. It was a quick grip.

Get a firm grip on the side of your boat while cleaning your fiberglass boat hull in the water or boarding safely with a Seateak Quick Grip boat suction handle.

It’s always a bit tricky to try to scrub the hull of your boat while in the water. Usually you are struggling to stay afloat while cleaning the water line.

We discovered this handy boat suction handle last season when we saw a boater using it as he scrubbed his boat hull while anchored out. Although I am sure it takes a bit of practice, this guy was practically sliding around the hull of his boat scrubbing the water line with one hand and using this boat suction grip to hold himself steady next to the boat and keep his head above the water (all while dealing with some wakes and anchored in fairly deep water).

The boat suction handle product that West Marine sells is called Seateak Quick Grip Handle and it seems like a deal for only around $15. It has stainless steel hardware so it won’t rust from being in the water, and it features a Quick Grip function that lets you easily secure it to a fiberglass hull and then quickly release it with the flip of a lever. (this boater we saw was releasing the grip, sliding it over to a new position and continuing to clean while in the water!)

The boat suction grip also seems to be a handy solution to not having a good handle for boarding a boat. Too many boats have either no boarding handle or a poorly positioned handle. With the Seateak Quick Grip Handle you can add a handle nearly anywhere you want on the side of your fiberglass boat for safer boarding.

I love this as a gift idea for a boater or just something you should pick up for yourself to add to your boat gear collection for easier maintenance and safer boating.

Seateak Quick Grip Handle . Perfect for steadying yourself while boarding; transiting a companionway or for cleaning a hull; QuickGrip features stainless steel hardware; and locking; super-grip suction. Installs instantly and releases with the flip of a lever.

I’m happy to know my deckhand likes the ease of using this grip. He’ll have plenty of practice on the new catamaran I’m scouting! Happy sailing!

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Sea-Ray Announces New Jet Boat

42226_2013_sea_ray_Sport_Cruisers_350_Sundancer[1]Knoxville, Tenn. – Jan. 11, 2013 – Perhaps the phrase “what a jet boat always wanted to be” sums it up best. Crafted with the exceptional design, engineering and quality for which Sea Ray has become so well known, the all-new 21 Jet is a true “boat” and not just a “jet boat.”

It starts with a substantial 21-foot, 6-inch length and 8-foot, 6-inch beam, boasting exterior lines, sculpting and styling that embraces the sporty, yet sophisticated, Sea Ray DNA. Six (not four) stainless-steel cleats are thru-bolted at precisely the right places for easy use when tying off. And unlike many jet boats, which come in only one or two colors, the 21 Jet is available in five choices of two-tone gel coat, in addition to a black hull bottom option and graphics upgrades.

The new Sea Ray’s generous dimensions translate into a spacious cockpit with seating for up to 10 people. The bow area has full wraparound benches and padded bolsters, allowing for nearly 360-degree utilization (an optional filler cushion creates a full-width sun pad). Stainless-steel grab handles replace the plastic ones found on many competitive models. At the nose is an anchor locker; it and the gel-coated storage compartments under the seats are molded into the finished fiberglass floor and liner system. This quality construction feature provides added moisture protection, helps in cleanup and maintenance, and creates a stronger and more solid overall design.

On the other side of the tempered/tinted glass windshield, a convertible lounger faces forward for comfort while under way, or can lie flat for stretching out. The rest of the cockpit seating consists of a big, U-shaped bench topped by marine-grade vinyl with mildew and UV protection. The portside console houses a standard Sony® stereo with CD-player and MP3 port; 12-volt accessory outlet; beverage holder and wakeboard storage inside. A cockpit floor locker, with gas assists, opens wide, so owners can easily access the interior with its full rubberized liner. A 25-quart, carry-on cooler comes with the boat and has its own dedicated storage.

Clean and compact, the helm of the new 21 Jet is reminiscent of a modern, luxury sports car. Stainless-steel hardware and bezels, along with lighted chrome toggle switches, impart a premium feel consistent with the Sea Ray aesthetic. Custom backlit gauges come with low-glare blue night-lighting and glass lenses that are more resilient than plastic ones. The tilt wheel has leathery custom padding, and the helm bucket seat swivels and slides for optimum adjustability. Different from competitive models, a single binnacle controls both of the twin engines evenly for easier operation than with dual binnacles.

Beyond the center transom walk-thru, an aft entertainment zone redefines the boating experience for owners of the 21 Jet. This multi-tiered, multi-purpose area includes a pair of aft-facing seats with padded backrests and an integral swim platform with three-step, stainless-steel ladder. It’s the perfect place to conveniently gear up for water sports, or to hang out and enjoy an afternoon of sunning and swimming. A ski tow eye is standard; add a stereo remote and speaker package here for even more fun at the water’s edge.

The 21 Jet is powered by twin 120-hp MPE-850 four-stroke engines with jet drives from Weber Motor, a global manufacturer since 1969 that has provided engines and engine components for world renowned automotive brands such as Mercedes Benz, BMW, Volkswagen, Ferrari and Ford. In addition, Weber has been providing engines and jet propulsion for the marine industry for over a decade, having built engines for numerous personal watercraft (PWC) and jet-powered yacht tender companies.

The 21 Jet’s intercooled and turbocharged engines offer rapid acceleration and smooth operation through the power band. Along with the other advantages of water-jet propulsion — shallow draft, faster planing, no exposed lower drive unit — Weber engines are also known to have lower-than-average fuel consumption for extended cruising range. Of particular note, “optimized thrust” from Weber’s exclusive reverse gate design creates efficiently balanced thrust that reduces drifting while in neutral. The 21 Jet will also be the first and only model available to meet California 4-Star super-ultra-low emission levels, setting a new industry benchmark.

Like all Sea Ray boats, the 21 Jet comes with a long list of standard and optional equipment to provide the best possible ownership experience. This includes a painted trailer with disc brakes and swing-away tongue (standard) and forward-facing, folding water-sports tower with integrated bimini top (optional). And, of course, every Sea Ray benefits from the superior strength, service support and marine focus of the world’s largest dealer network.

Specifications* for the 21 Jet are as follows:

Overall Length (w/std integral swim platform) 21 ’6” 6.55 m

Beam 8’, 6” 2.59 m

Draft 21” 53 cm

Dry Weight 2,883 lbs 1,308 kg

Fuel Capacity 45 gal 170 L

Max Persons/Weight 10/1,650 lbs 748 kg

(MWC) Max Weight Persons/Gear 1,800 lbs 816 kg

Dead Rise 21° 21°

*The specification measurements are approximations and are subject to variance.

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Marine Trades Association of New Jersey establishes Recovery & Relief Fund

marine wrecked

Manasquan, NJ – On Thursday, December 13th, the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey (MTA/NJ) announced the establishment of its new Recovery & Relief Fund to provide aid to recreational marine businesses impacted by Hurricane Sandy. The announcement was made at the MTA/NJ Annual Christmas Party held at the Spring Lake Manor and attended by 200 members.

In support of this new fund, Robert Staehle, Vice President of Brunswick Parts & Accessories, Land ‘N’ Sea, Kellogg Marine, Diversified Marine presented the MTA/NJ with a $25,000 check from Kellogg Marine which was collected as a joint effort by Bob’s Annual Turkey Fund, Brunswick Corp., Mercury Marine, Brunswick Boat Group, Kellogg Marine, and Land ‘N’ Sea.

“I am proud to lead an effort to help marine dealers recover from Hurricane Sandy and thankful for the Brunswick support of my fund. I started my Turkey Fund nine years ago to help feed the needy during the holidays and this year I felt a bigger effort was needed for hurricane relief,” stated Robert Staehle of Brunswick Corp. “People can still donate and directly help our own industry in this time of need.”

The Marine Trades Association of New Jersey Recovery & Relief Fund, a 501 (c) (3) corporation, was organized to provide relief and aid to recreational marine businesses in New Jersey that have been impacted by Hurricane Sandy and other national and local disasters. The MTA/NJ Recovery & Relief Fund will accept donations and contributions to the fund as well as conduct fundraising activities. All of the funds collected will be distributed directly to aid recreational marine businesses and individuals that have been adversely affected by Hurricane Sandy and other national and local disasters.

“We have been working hard to do everything we can to provide recovery assistance and support to our members that were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. In the days following the storm, we quickly realized that there was a need to establish a new charitable organization to provide a means for funds to be distributed directly to aid recreational marine businesses,” stated MTA/NJ Executive Director, Melissa Danko. “It is our hope that this new fund will provide the many individuals and organizations that have contacted us offering their assistance with an opportunity to support their fellow marine businesses.”

Anyone wishing to make a donation can send a check payable to MTA/NJ Recovery & Relief Fund, located at 2516 Highway 35, Suite 201, Manasquan, NJ 08736. For additional information, please contact the MTA/NJ offices at 732-292-1051; email: info@mtanj.org
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2012 St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show brings big crowds and beautiful weather

p2Gulf Coast’s largest boating lifestyle event reports increase in attendance and exhibitor participation
St. Petersburg, Fla. – The 35th annual St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show® offered four beautiful days for boaters of all ages, with an expanded selection of products and activities encompassing the total boating lifestyle. Show organizers reported a 5.2 percent increase in overall attendance compared to 2011 and a 10 percent increase in exhibitor participation, including more sailboats on display than in previous years.

“The newly expanded show layout worked beautifully with the increased number of exhibitors and boats on display offering guests more great things to see and experience,” said Dane Graziano, senior vice president and COO of Show Management, the company that manages and produces the show. “Judging by the crowds of people and overall success of the show, many people seem eager to own boats and get on the water.”

More than 60 educational special events including marine seminars by Discover Sailing drew large crowds daily, and youth fishing clinics presented by the non-profit Hook The Future entertained the next generation of fishermen and their parents.

The show continued to meet the expectations of exhibitors such as Hacker-Craft, the Silver Bay, New York-based manufacturer of sporty, hand-built mahogany boats. “We came to the St. Petersburg Boat Show for the first time in 2011 and sold a boat, and we sold another one this year,” said Ken Rawley, director of sales and marketing with Hacker Boat Co., Inc. ”We obviously are very happy with the results of each show. Add the benefits of being in a beautiful city with a vibrant waterfront, culture and fine restaurants and you have a great experience.”

Largo, Florida-based Catalina Yachts, known for building sturdy, well designed sailboats, saw an increase in qualified buyers this year. “The show turned out very well for us and our dealers, who saw more people at the show than the past three years,” said Ron Frisosky of Catalina Yachts. ”Attendance on Friday was equal to last year’s Saturday, and Saturday was gangbusters. We saw people from around the country and got lots of quality leads that will turn into sales in the next three to four months.”

The St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show is managed and produced by Show Management and sponsored by Lincoln, SAIL Magazine, Hook The Future, Goslings, Budweiser, BoatQuest.com and Sail America. Like the St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show on Facebook at facebook.com/StPeteBoatShow, follow the show on Twitter at twitter.com/boatshowupdates and tune into Boat Show TV at youtube.com/showmanagement. For more information, call (954) 764-7642 or (800) 940-7642, or visit ShowManagement.com.

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FEMA Considers Boats as Disaster Housing for Sandy Victims

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is considering housing victims of Hurricane Sandy at sea.

The agency Tuesday released a solicitation seeking only information on the possibility of putting disaster victims in New York and New Jersey on boats.

In asking for input on “maritime-based solutions for providing interim housing to disaster survivors,” FEMA said it would like to gather “information about immediately or rapidly available, cost-effective interim housing vessel-based solutions with climate appropriate designs allowing disaster survivors — including those with access and functional needs — to carry out normal day to day activities, and facilitating recovery while they seek permanent housing.”

FEMA cautioned it was not seeking information on cruise ships, but that it would consider other vessels with appropriate design, capability, availability and experience for potential contracts that would involve production, transportation, living arrangements, maintenance and demobilization.

The agency is seeking information only and has not yet determined if it will purchase such services or release a request for proposals to buy them.

“Should FEMA determine that maritime-based interim housing solutions are in the best interest of disaster survivors, then potential government contracts might include factors such as speed of delivery, cost-effectiveness, quality of the habitation (including survivor safety), possible proximity to survivors’ pre-disaster dwellings, experience, and past performance. Preference would likely be given for US flagged vessels,” FEMA said in its request for information.

Although FEMA and other federal, state and local agencies previously have rescued or evacuated people from disasters by boat, the idea of housing them on boats seems to be a new idea.

FEMA drew widespread criticism after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 for its use of trailers that were found to contain unhealthy levels of formaldehyde. The agency has shied away from the use of mobile homes in the years since Katrina, preferring to place disaster survivors in hotels, apartments or other types of housing when possible.

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