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.
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.
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.
The relationship between presidents — and would-be presidents — and those creations that are pointed at one end and mostly square at the other has long represented a mixed bag.
The president of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida will tell a congressional subcommittee on Thursday how a rule the Department of Labor issued is hurting the yacht repair industry.
The display in the Walmart store in Orange Park, Fla., turned more than a few heads, but is a pontoon boat made out of cases of beer with kegs for floats really the kind of message the retail discount giant wants to be promoting?
I was hanging out recently at my marina in Rhode Island, fooling with my little boat, when a friend returned to his slip fresh from a shark tournament off Montauk, N.Y. The fishing had been good, but what really impressed him had nothing to do with fins and teeth, but rather with service.
Gone — or at least dwindling quickly — are the days when a technician could get by solely by being able to “think with his hands,” although that ability remains a critical component of the job. More and more, success also hinges on the ability to “think with your head.”
Whether you sell tin boats in Wisconsin, flats boats in Florida or express cruisers on Long Island, the celebration at the New York Yacht Club last week marking Sperry Top-Sider’s title sponsorship of the US Sailing Team is positive news for everybody in the business.
Here’s a question worth drilling deep down into the boat registration numbers in order to ferret out an answer: How many boat owners are actually leaving our sport every year? What is the so-called defection rate?
I talked to a retired marine systems guy some time back who offered me this bit of wisdom: If you want to have the most fun on your boat, if you want to keep the wind in your face and the sun on your back, keep your boat as simple as possible.
As an industry, we have been talking of late about the need to reach out to a more diverse audience in order to fill out the next generation of boaters and the subsequent ones after that. And just a cursory look at the changing demographic landscape in this country provides plenty of evidence that broadening [...]
Good deadline reporters write fast, they’re competitive, they don’t come unglued under pressure, and they come back the next day and do it all over again. Day after day. Trade Only associate editor Beth Rosenberg pretty much fits that description to a T.
Sportfishing writer Tim Coleman was a quiet, modest man who preferred to let his actions and written words do the talking for him. An exceptional saltwater angler and a prolific writer, Coleman didn’t like to put himself at the center of his stories or shine a spotlight on himself.
At the American Boating Congress in Washington, D.C., last week, speaker Greg Ip of The Economist reminded the audience of one of the realities of this sluggish economy. We remain in the midst of a slow U- or L-shaped recovery, one that still feels like a recession to millions of people.
It’s been a long time since anyone has suggested we’ve been too effusive in our reporting on the state of the industry. For much of the last four years, just the opposite has been true.
I was able to catch up with West Marine CEO and president Geoff Eisenberg at the grand opening last Thursday of the company’s newest flagship store in Old Saybrook, Conn.
Good news on the manufacturing front from The Wall Street Journal and a growing number of other sources. After a long drought, industrial manufacturing in this country may have shifted gears, the newspaper suggests in a recent story.
You probably know the old saw. Q: What does the word “boat” stand for? A: Break Out Another Thousand. At the Recreational Boating Leadership Workshop in Chicago yesterday, NMMA president Thom Dammrich provided a different interpretation of the acronym.
There is boat show traffic, and then there is qualified traffic. The Palm Beach International Boat Show has a reputation for attracting a strong percentage of serious buyers, which really shouldn’t be a surprise given the surrounding zip codes.
You lift your head after spending a good bit of time in the traces and suddenly realize the industry has gone gray while you were busy plowing your fields. Where did all the kids go?
One winter ago, Stacey Raymond found himself in the same boat as a lot of small builders, scratching and clawing for every sale. This winter, however, was a bit different for the owner of General Marine Inc. of Biddeford, Maine. Raymond was busy building 20 small boats for fishermen in Japan whose lives were turned [...]
We need to grow the pie. We need to attract more women, more young people, more minority-group members — more people who don’t look exactly like me and, no offense, probably don’t look like you, either.
Gasoline prices are a moving target, and of late they have been heading north at a nearly unprecedented clip.
Deep recessions have a way of reordering the status quo. New business models emerge, and companies that are able to adapt quickly to changing conditions typically do better than those that can’t. Be it a large public company or smaller private ones, those able to capitalize on the opportunities that down markets invariably offer emerge [...]
A nice “made in America” story surfaced last week in North Carolina.
Captain of your ship. Captain of your company. Are there lessons to be learned from the captain of the stricken cruise liner Costa Concordia, who has been dubbed “Capt. Coward” and the “Chicken of the Sea” for leaving his ship before all of the passengers and crew?
Several weeks ago, I was standing in C&C Marine’s plant in Bristol, R.I., with Charles Tasso, looking at a new but uncompleted NorthCoast 21 Express that was supposed to make it to the Providence (R.I.) Boat Show.