This article originally appeared in the February 2016 issue.
I’d like to think I’m more tolerant of the cold and snowy weather than most boaters. Sure, I still dream of living in a region someday where the concept of winterizing your boat is unheard of, but at the same time the long winters help me appreciate the boating season—at least that’s my own justification as I try to convince myself that winter is necessary as well as a good thing.
Like a lot of pontoon or deck boat owners, I winterized last fall and while I gave in to the temptation to surf online for possible spring upgrades a few times around the Christmas holiday, for the most part I’ve managed to not dwell too much on the non-boating part of the season.
January and February can be a brutal time of year for boaters and I think that’s why boat shows do so well during this stretch. Of course it doesn’t help that companies like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are constantly reminding us that cruises to Mexico are taking sun-starved passengers weekly to destinations far better than our work commute.
When you think about it, there are some interesting parallels between cruise ships and our recreational boating. The major cruise lines continue to build more and bigger ships. To fill all those new staterooms, they’re trying to attract customers who have never sailed before.
According to the Cruise Lines International Association, just 24 percent of the U.S. population has gone cruising. Notably, those figures somewhat parallel marine industry figures. Specifically, 29 percent of U.S. households had at least one member go boating. Individually, 23.6 percent of all adults in the U.S. participated in boating. Good numbers, yes, but both industries are looking for a lot more.
The good news for our industry is that new powerboat sales are on a multi-year rise with pre-recession levels on the horizon in several boat segments including deck boats, up 11.3 percent, and pontoon boats, up 6.6 percent. The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) estimates new powerboat unit sales overall will be up as much as eight percent for 2015 when the industry tallies its final figures. The NMMA anticipates the industry will continue its growth spurt.
“A steadily improving economy and flurry of product innovation have boosted new powerboat sales, which is encouraging to see as we head into the winter boat show season, one of the busiest selling periods of the year,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president. “We anticipate six to eight percent growth in 2016 which would take total new powerboat sales back to pre-recession levels of 250,000 units.”
Translation: there might not be a better time than right now to get out and hit the boat shows to see what all the excitement is about. Nothing beats the February blues like a convention center overflowing with new boats. While vacations can be fun, for long-term enjoyment think bigger and consider buying a new boat this year. After all, the great memories you make with a pontoon or deck boat will last far longer than any seven-night cruise.