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Social Distancing Leads to Spikes in Boating Activity

Social distancing has become a top priority in 2020 and as a result many people have taken to the water to do so naturally. The boating indus


Social distancing has become a top priority in 2020 and as a result many people have taken to the water to do so naturally. The boating industry saw record numbers throughout the summer season; from sales and on-water traffic to the need for on-water assistance. Boating is up and new boaters have been flooding the market like never before.

Sea Tow Services International – one of the leading providers of on-water assistance for boaters nationwide – found that from Memorial Day Week to Labor Day weekend, requests for on-water assistance increased by 34% compared to the same timeframe in 2019.

While the number of requests has increased, the type of services has remained the same when compared year-over-year. “We’re still providing the same types of services, we’re just doing a lot more of them this summer,” said Sea Tow President, Kristen Frohnhoefer. “In fact, our captains helped over 60,000 people who were out boating this summer season.”

The top five services Sea Tow provided included:

– Towing (58%)
– Ungroundings (9%)
– Jump starts (8%)
– Fuel Delivery (8%)
– Dock-to-dock tows (8%)

Job reports also showed that member services comprised of 60% of all Sea Tow requests for service, non-member services comprised 36%, and salvage and recovery 4%.

“We continue to prioritize servicing our members, but the numbers show we assisted a good number of other boaters as well,” said Frohnhoefer. “We’re closing out one of our busiest seasons on record and trends post-Labor Day are showing that as long as the weather stays nice, boating and the need for on-water assistance is showing no sign of slowing down.”

Recreational boating is a popular leisure activity in the U.S. Over 87 million U.S. adults participate in recreational boating, using a boat for (sports) activities such as fishing and water skiing and/or to travel. The total value of recreational boats sold reached over 3.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2016. The greatest portion of this value came from sales of boats with a length between 36 and 45 feet. In total, 11.87 million recreational boating vessels were registered in the U.S. in 2015. These boats are classified into several categories: sailboats, personal watercrafts, sterndrive boats, inboard boats and outboard boats.

The number of boats sold annually by brokers in the United States has remained steady at around 30,000 units between 2012 and 2016. The pre-own recreational boat market was considerably larger with unit sales of around 950 thousand for the five years preceding 2014. Sales of jet boats, sail boats and outboard boats all seen sharp declines in the years 2008 and 2009. Although unit sales for these products are increasing, none of them have reached the numbers seen pre 2008.

Recreational boating was a popular activity among North American campers in 2015. During a survey of campers, 22 percent indicated that canoeing or kayaking was their favorite recreation activity and a further 13 percent selected either motor boating, jet skiing or water sports, according to Statista. It is also a popular hobby of affluent Americans, with 10.3 percent of U.S. household with an income over 200,000 U.S. dollars reported owning a boat in 2015.

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