Rebounding industry gives boost to boat dealership as it launches yearly in-water show

October 2011 News

Plenty of skiffs, sport fishing craft - even a few yachts - will be displayed locally this weekend. But the hot item just might be pontoon boats.

"I was floored," said Jim McClellan, general manager of Sea Ray Scout of Charleston marine dealership in Berkeley County.

McClellan is heading up the SeaRay Scout In-Water Boat Show & Sale this weekend at Charleston Harbor Marina in Mount Pleasant.

"We will probably have 20 to 25 in the water (at any one time)," he said. Up to 70 boats will be on hand throughout the Friday-Sunday event.

Brands include Scout, built in Summerville; Florida-based SeaRay; Boston Whaler; and the new Bennington pontoon line.

The flat-bottomed vessels have been around for years, yet sales are up 150 percent in the Southeast this year.

No one knows why for sure, although the boats are becoming more powerful and flexible and can hold a lot of people.

"You can put 10-12 people on them," he said. The dealership this year added the high-end Bennington line, which includes a saltwater version. Top speed is 45 mph. "It takes waves real well," he said.

No matter what boat people want, this year's show should be well attended judging from business activity thus far in 2011.

"This is the best year we've had in three years," McClellan said.

The three-day show and sale offers free admission and free parking for show-goers. "We've had good success doing this," he said, noting that typical attendance is a couple of hundred people a day.

Event-goers can do more than look. "We do a little thing called 'Ride Before You Buy,'" McClellan said. If customers are fine with the price and ready to purchase, the dealership will take them up the Wando River and back as a test drive.

The SeaRay Scout show is a forerunner to the broader Charleston Boat Show that takes place in January.

Many owners store their boats in the colder-weather months, taking the time to get their rigs fixed. "It keeps my guys (in parts and service) busy during the winter," he says.


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