Boat sales rise as Bay looks into shipping in COVID-19 era


Anyone who lives near the shores of the Chesapeake and its tributaries can’t help but notice it: boating is fun. Mid-bay boaters recently said Bay Bulletin that the local waters have been so busy, it feels like July 4th.

With the coronavirus response limiting travel and activity, boat owners who typically don’t go out as much as they would like now have few other commitments standing in their way. Chris Guy, a boating enthusiast from Southern Anne Arundel County, speculates, “I think people working from home and canceled activities have given people a lot more free time to be on the water.

The National Marine Manufacturer’s Association (NMMA) says the forecast for boating this summer is looking bright, as it is “a great outdoor activity to relax and unwind with known benefits for. mental health, while naturally allowing you to meet social distancing guidelines. “

As boat traffic on the bay has increased, so has the number of people buying boats. Chesapeake area dealers are reporting increased activity. Bluewater Yacht Sales, with three locations in Maryland and two in Virginia, is recording record sales. Chesapeake Boat Basin, a Boston Whaler dealer in Kilmarnock on the Northern Neck of Virginia, tells us they are completely sold out for all new models in the near future. And Crusader Yachts in Annapolis, which sells new and used boats, also says they’re particularly busy.

“The current brokerage business is very strong and one of the concerns is inventory levels and getting new listings,” says Mike Titgemeyer, owner of Crusader Yachts. “A lot of buyers think it’s a buyer’s market because of COVID, but it really isn’t. Boats sell for and come close to asking prices in many cases. “

The NMMA says national boat sales (new and used) support the trend we are seeing in the bay. In May, 70 percent of the nation’s marine dealers said their sales had increased, the highest numbers since July 2018. Used boat brokers also reported growth of 74 percent.

The biggest growth is coming from smaller entry-level boats, which, according to the NMMA, indicates that more and more people are getting into boating:

“New data indicates that many first-time boat buyers are investing in a boat to replace other summer traditions canceled due to the pandemic,” said NMMA representative John-Michael Donahue. Bay Bulletin.

Jet skis are the main buys of early buyers entering the marine market, and the NMMA finds that people bought 75% more personal watercraft in May than in May 2019. Wakeboard boats and others small boats like cruisers were popular this spring.

Another factor: small boats are also more affordable in these uncertain economic times. According to the NMMA, 62% of boaters have an annual family income of $ 100,000 or less and 95% of boats are less than 26 feet long – boats that can be towed to local launch sites.

One factor yet to be determined: the impact of the fall boat show season on sales. “The boat show season is a bit unknown, but what the shows will look like. How many people will be going out? How many people will the shows allow on a daily basis and what kinds of safety precautions are in place… ”wonders Titgemeyer.

He points out that many dealerships rely on boat shows for 50-75% of their revenue for the year, and some are still trying to financially recover from the cancellation of all spring shows. For now, the Annapolis Boat Shows (American sailing and powerboat shows) are still scheduled for October, with tickets limited to one day.

-Meg Walburn Viviano

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