Boat sales increase during the COVID pandemic


LOS ANGELES – Jean d’Assonville has finally found the boat of his dreams – not easy in the midst of a pandemic.

He bought a 50ft sailboat, one he hopes to take around the world, and sold his 28ft at a time when a hot market for just about anything that floats is making buyers’ choices much slimmer than d ‘habit.

“With the whole pandemic and the many sales going on, I feel very lucky,” said d’Assonville, of Altadena, Calif. “Everyone buys boats.”

Everyone, indeed. Families have avoided airlines, hotels, cruises and other crowded vacation options this summer. Instead, they’ve opted for more personal transportation choices that make it easier to fight the coronavirus, whether it’s RVs, bikes, or, in this case, boats.

Total new boat sales — from personal watercraft to yachts — were the highest in a decade in May, and June was also strong, reports the National Marine Manufacturers Association, based on the latest available sales figures.

In new motorboats alone, the 115,000 sold in May and June combined represented a 30% increase over the same two months last year.

Boat slips are in demand. Sailing destinations, such as Catalina Island off Southern California, saw higher mooring demand in July than in the same month a year ago. And the used boat market has been so tight that yacht brokers are on the hunt for new listings.

And oh, are they busy.

“It’s crazy, actually,” said Jack Silver, salesman for Marina del Rey Yacht Sales at a harbor that’s home to thousands of boats on the west side of Los Angeles County.

He says the company has been selling about 11 boats a month, down from the usual two or three, since the pandemic took hold. The number of used boats is so limited that some are bought without being seen, he said.

Perhaps best of all for the industry, the pandemic is driving a lot of new buyers out of the lumber. Some are earthlings who owned a boat and now aspire to own one again, said Mike Pretasky Jr., CEO of boat dealership SkipperBud’s and Silver Sea Yachts. They buy anything they can get their hands on, be it fishing boats, pontoon boats, water ski boats or whatever.

About half of recent boat buyers are first-timers, said Paul Flannery, executive director of the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based International Yacht Brokers Association. They are drawn to the ability to get out of the house and onto the water in a socially distanced way.

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“We have experienced unprecedented growth,” he said. “The industry is absolutely on fire.”

But some beginners find it difficult to adapt to the nautical life.

David Anthony, a lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee, had dreamed of owning a boat for years. So when his wife’s sister’s fiancé was ready to sell his 20ft ski boat, Anthony said he bought it.

“I always wanted a boat,” he said. “I put it on a pedestal. It’s a COVID-safe outdoor activity.”

David Anthony has always dreamed of owning a boat.  This summer he bought a 20ft motorboat for family use.  But he says he didn't understand how much hassle it would cause.  Photo by Lena Anthony.

With his new boat ready to be picked up from a trailer, Anthony encountered his first problem: he deemed his Nissan Leaf electric compact car not strong enough to tow it. So he traded it in for a four-wheel-drive pickup.

Then there was the matter of backing the trailer into its driveway. He said he spent 90 minutes trying to fit it. After this exercise, Anthony decided it might be wiser to keep him in the water. He said his wife had called a long list of marinas, finding most slips had been taken, but eventually managed to catch one on Lake Percy Priest.

He’s taken the boat out several times, but still isn’t comfortable being a skipper. “Every time I drive to the lake, I get a knot in my stomach,” fearing something might be wrong, he says. Maybe the engine won’t start or something broke. Nothing has, but he still worries.

So far, the navigation has gone pretty well, but not enough to be convinced that the life of a sailor is made for him. Between the hassle of the boat and having to buy the truck, ‘I absolutely regret buying it,’ he said, acknowledging he’d feel just as bad if he didn’t. not done.

As for Assonville, part of an aeronautical company, no regrets.

He considered his boat a bargain and said it would become his floating home when he retired in a few years, a ticket to adventure.

“My lady and I want to go sailing for the rest of the time,” he said.

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