Geddes, NY -- Dozens of boat enthusiasts wandered through the state fair's Center of Progress building Wednesday afternoon during the first day of the 2009 CNY Boat Show.
Boat retailers and marina representatives showcased a variety of products, including kayaks, canoe paddles, luxury cruisers and pontoon boats.
Chuck Wisniewski, of Cicero, who used to own a pontoon boat and lived on Oneida Lake, said he comes to the boat show every year.
"I think a lot of people are coming in to look around," said Wisniewski. But given the current state of the economy, he doesn't think there will be a lot of first-time buyers this year.
Steve VanDyke thinks so, too. As a boat engine representative for Tohatsu, VanDyke goes to boating shows across the country, and he has noticed that attendance at many of them is at a record high. But only a small number of boat show attendees are qualified buyers.
"The catch-22 is financing," said Jim Alexander, who was helping Aero Marina Conway, in Brewerton, sell boats and marina space. "You have to have good credit to buy a new boat."
Other areas of the industry, such as used boat sales, accessories and marina slots, remain steady, according to John Jablonski, co-owner of the Sailboat Shop in Skaneateles.
"The boating industry in Central New York is strong," he said. "Many of the retailers here have been around for a long time. They have survived tough economic times."
He said that even over the summer when gas prices skyrocketed, people were still using their boats, they just weren't taking long trips.
Alexander agreed. "There were more parties at the marina," he said. "We got to know our neighbors pretty well."
Marina operators are keeping their fingers crossed for a good boating season.
"We held our own last year, but we saw a drop in business," said Beth D'Alonzo of Mike's Marina, in Mexico. "I hope it gets better, but people are calling right and left saying they've lost their jobs. But I'm going to think positive."
"I think most people took shorter trips last year, like they went out to (Verona Beach)," said Debbie Scarpinato, co-owner of Oneida Lake Marina, in Lenox. "This year, I think they'll do a little bit more cruising."
Jim Pynn of J&S Marina, in Lysander, said the deteriorating economy could make the coming season worse. He said two customers who worked at New Process Gear can't afford their boats anymore.
"Last season, I had about 100 boats that never went into the water," he said.
Mike Sacco, manager at Hibiscus Harbor, in Union Springs, said his location in the Finger Lakes, his lack of dock competition and full marina amenities kept his business up last year. He believes business will be good this year, too.
--Staff writers Debra Groom and John Doherty contributed to this report.