The “vibe” at the International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference in Tampa Tuesday on the opening day of the show was as strong as any I have sensed since pre-recession days. How much of that was attributable to the industry’s continuing recovery and how much was enthusiasm about the new venue is difficult to say. But […]
I live in small boating town on the lower Connecticut River and it’s hard to go out after work and lift a pint without bumping into someone who makes his or her living in our industry.
Weatherwise, it was not a perfect day for the water — gray, layered clouds and a light wind out of the east. But my 15-year-old daughter had a day off from the horse barn where she works and asked, “Dad, can we go out on the boat?” I don’t hear that every day, so I […]
Would you hire someone who’s smarter than you are? In 35 years in journalism and the marine industry, I’ve heard my share of senior management types espouse the virtues of surrounding themselves with people who are brighter than they are. In truth, more than a few wound up foundering because they didn’t hire people who […]
It is not the leather or teak or technology that matters so much to the good folks on the water these days as it is a different kind of comfort. Call it the luxury of reliability, dependability and durability.
If you think you’ve been seeing more outboards on the water and in showrooms these days, your eyes are not deceiving you. Outboards have been gobbling market share for the last seven years.
As a teacher and principal in Middletown, R.I., Steve Ponte has influenced thousands of children. Outside the classroom, he’s also been a role model and mentor for young people through a kids’ fishing tournament he has held through the school for the last 28 years.
Two well-publicized marine accidents — the capsizing of the Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia and the South Korean ferry Sewol — have raised a number of safety questions and concerns, including this one: Must the captain go down with the ship? It’s a little more complicated than lore might have you believe. The safety of […]
It is probably one of the most difficult things the Coast Guard has to do: suspending the search for mariners lost at sea while loved ones implore them to keep looking for at least a little longer. Their hope is rock-solid, their pleas as heartfelt as any you’ll hear in your life, let alone your […]
I was able to catch up earlier this week by email with John Pfeifer, the new president of Mercury Marine. Pfeifer, 48, replaces Mark Schwabero, who was recently promoted to the newly created position of president and chief operating officer of Brunswick Corp.
It came as little surprise that the harsh winter and its significant drag on the economy in the first quarter would also impact boat sales.
It takes a lot to get my 15-year-old daughter’s attention these days if the topic isn’t horses or country music. I’m certain she has a recessive water gene in there somewhere.
Powerboat writer Eric Sorensen was passing through my part of the world yesterday afternoon, so we met at a pub after work to kick around some future story ideas.
How much is selling boats like selling cars?
We’ve been burning the midnight oil lately getting our second issue of Anglers Journal wrapped up — put to bed, as they say — and out the door. We think that anyone in the industry with a passion for fishing — or who sells boats, motors, gear, tackle and accessories to anglers — will have […]
For the last year, Correct Craft president and CEO Bill Yeargin has been working on the Manufacturing Council, a group of 25 business leaders who advise U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker on a variety of manufacturing topics.
In the not-too-distant past, when our waterways were a bit more crowded, we heard more concerns raised about irresponsible boaters tossing large wakes or driving recklessly. The actions of a few bad apples were not only jeopardizing the safety of others, but they also put boating on the radar of overzealous regulators and waterfront homeowners. […]
We were looking through old stacks of Trade Only the other day for background when a front-page story I wrote nearly 25 years ago and had long forgotten jumped out at me.
We’ve been beating the affordability drum for a while now, but there it was back on the table last night. I was having dinner with a bunch of people, and the talk down at our end of the table inevitably drifted to boats — who was actively looking, who was somewhat looking and who was […]
We all know this old chestnut from Mark Twain: “If you don’t like the weather in New England, just wait a few minutes.” This year, a “few minutes” only seemed to make things colder.
I was listening to “Car Talk” on NPR last weekend when the Magliozzi brothers took a call from a woman named Kathy who said she didn’t have a problem with her car, but rather her husband, who is a mechanic.
The question is this: Why did so few boatbuilders (compared with dealers) go out of business during the recession?
After more than a month of moving in and out of the polar vortex, it was nice to be back on the water off South Florida last night. Real nice.
If you want to get on the water, you’ll find a way to get on the water. Small boat. Project boat. Begged, borrowed or banged-up boat. But if you’re not among the upper middle class — say, the top 20 percent — you’re probably not buying a new premium brand.
It’s not always clear how closely our industry parallels the automobile industry in terms of trends, technology and other leanings. Sometimes we’re on the same highway headed in the same general direction, and sometimes we’re not.
Jon Kukuk is both an advocate and a pragmatist on the subject of boater education.
Diversity, advocacy, youth, affordability, the aging of our fleet and the graying of our core market — these issues have become part of regular industry dialogue during the past two years, thanks in large part to the inaugural Growth Summit in December 2011 and the continuing work of the Recreational Boating Leadership Council.
It wasn’t that long ago that an executive or business owner might have shied away from buying a new yacht because of the sensitivity of spending big money when millions of people were losing jobs. It was all about optics. They didn’t want to seem oblivious or callous with so many people struggling.
Nordic Tug dealer Ben Wilde of Wilde Yacht Sales in Essex, Conn., and Rock Hall, Md., has had a good fall. Wilde and his team have sold 10 brokerage boats since Oct. 1, with two more sales pending, most falling between $200,000 and $370,000.
Mechanic Erik Klockars and I had a conversation the other day about the cost of boating while we winterized my boat and fiddled with a bunch of little things that needed tweaking and fixing. It’s a topic Erik and I like to kick around, even if we usually wind up agreeing to disagree.
You want to be successful in this business? Start by building or selling boats that are beautiful (or handsome), reliable and seaworthy.
Longtime Soundings contributing writer Mike Saylor has a way of distilling subjects to their essence.
When he came out of high school in Connecticut, the young catcher’s nicknames were the “Moose” and the “New London Strong Boy.” At 6 feet, 2 inches and 225 pounds, John Ellis was a tough, gifted athlete who at 20 years old found himself in the starting lineup for the New York Yankees as an […]
We all know the type. Outgoing, gregarious, passionate boaters who always seem to be getting new people out on the water. They’re the ones making things happen at the marina, the anchorage, the sandbar. They know everybody, and their energy is infectious.
We rolled back into Fort Lauderdale last week with some unfinished business on our agenda.
I had a conversation with a co-worker a couple of days ago as we went over our schedules for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show that caused a moment of reflection. We were talking about an acquaintance who is in the industry but who had sort of gone flat on shows. We were puzzled.
We are living in and creating a media/entertainment landscape today in which video is shouldering aside traditional forms of communication as it rapidly gains audience and revenue.
A friend was talking the other day about a new boat that was so well built it was going to last “100 years.” Call it new-boat irrational exuberance, to borrow a phrase from Alan Greenspan.
With the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show just around the corner (Oct. 31-Nov. 4), we recently interviewed Billy S. Smith III, vice president of sales and marketing for Trinity Yachts, of New Orleans and Gulfport, Miss., the largest custom yacht builder in the country.
A couple of weeks ago I started the draft of a column in which I made the argument that the America’s Cup was in need of a reboot and that sail-crazy New Zealand was just the country to do it. At that point, it looked as if the Kiwis could stumble their way to a […]
Putting together this piece Tuesday night, I was thinking about something IBEX keynote speaker Rick Pitino said last week prior to the opening of the marine technology conference. I was also thinking of this remarkably improbable America’s Cup, which saw Oracle Team USA come streaking back with two wins Tuesday to tie the series with […]
Walking the floor with IBEX show director Anne Dunbar is like moving through stop-and-go traffic. She knows everybody, so we slow every 20 or 30 feet, less sometimes, while Dunbar shakes hands, hugs, jokes and chats — all the while keeping a watchful eye on the flock.
When I came home with a generator several years ago, my wife said, “What do need that for?” She grew up in Northern California. No hurricanes. I sighed. Just wait, I thought. Since then we’ve lost power three or four times for extended periods during winter and fall storms, the last being Hurricane Sandy.
In two weeks, many of us will be headed to Louisville for IBEX, with its strong lineup of technical seminars, expert speakers and a broad array of exhibitors.
Our industry is an interesting mix of tradition and innovation.
Capt. Eric Knott has spent 35 years on the water. A native of England, he followed his father into commercial fishing in the North Sea, Irish Sea, English Channel and environs.
The best vehicle for promoting our sport isn’t a video or a blog or a tweet or even a boat sitting in a showroom. It’s a boat ride. And the best ambassador for our sport is you and me.
You like big machinery? Then you’re going to like this video.
Sometime this weekend, I will don a mask and snorkel and quietly prowl the shallow waters off southern Rhode Island, looking for striped bass. If the surf is up, the visibility won’t be great; the water will be sandy and full of tiny bits of pulverized shells and weed, and the fish will be a […]
Disruptive technologies continue to make headlines. Some analysts predict that the PC market will never again achieve the numbers it once did, done in, so to speak, by tablets, smartphones and whatever the next big thing in mobile is. Think devices you will one day wear on your wrist.
If you make it nice and inviting, they will come. And if you teach them with patience and care and make it fun, they’ll give it a good try. And if we’re all lucky, they will join the tribe and have a long and happy life messing around in boats.
Are boats becoming more like cars? Or planes, perhaps?
There is a 13.5-foot yellow “banana” on the top of my Toyota 4Runner. Veteran Miami charter skipper Bouncer Smith would blanch at the thought of a yellow boat, especially one resembling a banana, which in Bouncer’s world portends bad, bad luck for anglers.
For all those in the business of designing, building, selling, maintaining and generally enjoying boats, a few thoughts on those things (mostly) pointy at one end and (mostly) square at the other, as summer swells and all thoughts turn to getting out on the water.
Over the last couple of years I have written a good bit about changing demographics and how they are affecting our industry today, tomorrow and 10 or more years from now.
Sometimes the simplest question yields the most revealing answer. Near the end of an hour-plus-long interview with successful marina entrepreneur Jack Brewer, we asked him what he believed was his company’s greatest asset.
Capt. Jim Nunes is one of the last of the old-time Cuttyhunk, Mass., fishing guides.
It was one of those special TV moments. Ad agency creative director Don Draper is making a pitch to two Kodak executives about a different way to position the company’s new slide wheel, which Draper is about to dub the “carousel.”
Lou Sandoval is a passionate sailor and co-founder/co-owner of Karma Yacht Sales, a successful Beneteau dealership on Lake Michigan in Chicago. He is also very active in the industry.
The headlines accompanying the release of the Coast Guard’s 2012 Recreational Boating Statistics earlier this week correctly trumpeted the decrease in boating deaths, injuries and accidents. That’s good news.
On the eve of the American Boating Congress, the Recreational Boating Leadership Council met for five hours on Tuesday to chart progress and hear from the six committees working on key components of the industry’s 10-year growth plan.
I read a story over the weekend about how new technology is reopening natural gas fields under the stormy North Sea. Sections of the ocean floor that a decade ago companies turned their backs on as either tapped out or just too difficult to work are seeing a healthy revival, according to The Wall Street […]
New-boat sales have cooled during a chilly spring, but experts think the economy will weather the sequester and builders and dealers are upbeat.
I was walking past a row of boats on the hard at the Palm Beach International Boat Show in March when I did a double take over something to my left. I stopped and circled back. Pretty boat? Pretty girl?
Given all the changes and upheaval taking place in media these days, newspapers and magazines with longevity and a strong, steady pulse are worthy of note.
Gray Harker has a way with boats and a way with words.
The spirit of entrepreneurship and the dream of building a better mousetrap was alive and well at the Palm Beach International Boat Show last week.
Phin Sprague Jr. is part contrarian, part libertarian, part Yankee. The veteran offshore sailor also is the founder of the Maine Boatbuilders Show, which finished up Sunday, and the owner of Portland Yacht Service, a full-service yard in Portland, Maine.
The image of the young kid driving the well-worn little tub named Whisper was just what I was looking for.
Tired of feeling as if your voice isn’t being heard? Want to get out ahead of issues for a change? Get in front of folks who can actually make a difference?
“Son,” the note read, “whatever you do, don’t ever marry a stripper.”
At every boat show I attend I keep my radar tuned for at least one piece of wisdom or advice or an observation that I didn’t have before the event. The big, sprawling Miami shows that ended Monday were no different, although I’ve come to realize that the bigger the show, the harder it is […]
After several days of shoveling, blowing and plowing snow we are winging south out of storm-blasted New England to the Miami shows, where the preshow mood was cautiously optimistic, to use an overused phrase. Things are feeling better.
With the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing last Friday above 14,000 for the first time in more than five years, I thought this would be a good time to revisit the notion of the “wealth effect,” especially seeing how the Miami shows and the nine-day New England Boat Show start next week.
The industry was about to catch fire in the 1950s — the war was over, the economy was growing, Americans were enjoying expanded leisure time and more discretionary income, wood was bowing to fiberglass. By the ’60s it was zoom-zoom for pleasure boats as the expanding middle class solidly embraced boating.
Today’s dispatch covers some new ground as well as some familiar ground but from what I hope is a fresh, slightly different perspective.
Large numbers can be difficult to put into perspective. For example, we all know that the fleet of recreational boats is aging, but it might surprise you to see just how many older boats are out in the field, versus new ones.
Some of the best prospects for boat sales today and tomorrow are the grown children of the current crop of boaters. And if you wait just a little bit, the grandchildren may be looking for boats, too.
As with most clichés, the old saw about “the more things change, the more they stay the same” undoubtedly has a modicum of truth to it, but I wouldn’t want to build a business model around it. Not in this industry. Not in any, for that matter. And not these days.
We were discussing how to get kids involved in boating and fishing during the Growth Summit in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, and it got me thinking about my high school fishing club and the salty charter captain who ran it.
So just what will 2013 hold for the marine industry?
How do we ensure that we have enough trained workers to build the increasingly sophisticated boats of today and tomorrow?
Seems like everybody I know these days is working harder, wearing more hats, shouldering more stress.
It used to be true with autos that “you raced them on Sunday and sold them on Monday.” And it was also true that racing — cars, sailboats and powerboats —improved the breed. No better example than C. Raymond Hunt and the deep-vee.
In the end, Hurricane Sandy lived up to just about every bad scenario that was painted for her as she churned toward the Northeast just over two weeks ago.
Just a little over a week after Superstorm Sandy barreled ashore and just hours before a nor’easter was to hit the Northeast, I was having an email conversation with New Jersey boater Bob Keck.
Superstorm Sandy set lots of records but not the kind you want. Here is a look in brief at this massive megastorm of a generation.
I want to give a shout-out to Taylor Made Products for what it did during IBEX to raise awareness for breast cancer research. The Gloversville, N.Y., company produced a limited edition of its 40-year-old mermaid fender in bright pink to support Breast Cancer Awareness Month and to raise money to fight the disease.
Continuing the trend of new boats and gear recently introduced at the fall shows, the AIM Marine Group editorial team, which includes Soundings and Trade Only, also will launch a new product at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which runs Oct. 25-29.
On Thursday morning at IBEX, I’ll have the pleasure of moderating a seminar discussion that includes an industry veteran and one of the really good guys in our business. Bing Fishman, who was the longtime Northeast regional sales manager for Grady-White, will be talking about the finer points of delivering great customer service and being […]
Last week we talked about the increased number of new models being introduced at the fall shows and we looked at new-boat forecasts for the year.
The round of fall shows got under way last week with the Newport International Boat Show, which drew good crowds and showcased more new models than I’ve seen since the start of the Great Recession.
My son and I spent the last two evenings scurrying around a dock, carrying a long-handled net and wearing headlamps as we checked lines baited with chicken legs. We were crabbing in the waning days of summer. And, yes, these were school nights for my seventh-grader, too.
My inbox after the holiday weekend was filled with enough incidents, accidents and cautionary tales to keep a boating safety class busy all winter.
This is a story about one of my grandfathers that I think illustrates a real strength of our sport and our industry.
Don Hyde knows that properly maintaining the systems on a boat is more difficult than keeping up with those in a big house that sells for 10 times the price of the boat.
The Queen Bee has returned to the hive in North Carolina, ending one of the strangest, most unlikely small-boat journeys in recent memory.
When does caution in hiring or expanding one’s business because of concerns about a stalling economy become a self-fulfilling prophecy? And when is that caution justified?
Ethanol was back in the news recently when a Phillips 66 service station in Lawrence, Kan., in July became the first in the country to offer E15. The station, which has 14 gas pumps and four for diesel, allows motorists to choose E10, E15, E30 or E85, with the higher levels suitable only for so-called […]
The boys at my marina have been looking a tad older, as are the ones down in the anchorage. And so is the guy in the mirror, for that matter. The market of new boat buyers and current boaters is graying before our eyes.