Orange County boat sales explode amid pandemic

Tired of crouching under the security restrictions imposed in the event of a pandemic, people are eager to get out on both land and sea.

Similar to the surge in bicycle purchases, the boating industry has seen an increase in sales, especially for first and second buyers, primarily in the 30 to 50 foot range.

Local independent yacht broker Bill Forsythe said the boat business has been the best in years.

“Every day, not just weekends, there are a lot of people on the water, more than I have seen in years,” said Forsythe.

Forsythe, originally from Washington State, has lived in and around Newport Beach for 40 years. He has been selling new and used yachts for 45 years.

He began his career as a police officer in Kirkland, Washington, for six years before moving to Honolulu, Hawaii, in search of a warmer climate and a new avenue to sell insurance. . While in Hawaii, he lived on a 52-foot sailboat in Ala Wai Harbor and became addicted to the idea of ​​bringing people and boats together.

After five years in Honolulu, he was transferred from the insurance company he worked for to its Southern California office in Arcadia. Once back on the continent, his interest in yachting intensified.

Bill Forsythe, Independent Yacht Broker, aboard a client’s 1974 cruiser Grand Banks Alaskan.

(Susan Hoffmann)

Eventually obtaining a license with Flying Cloud Yacht Sales in Long Beach, Forsythe left the insurance industry and moved to Orange County. After working for Mariner’s Yachts in Newport Beach, he opened his own business, Yacht Connection, in the 1980s.

Forsythe, which primarily sells used boats of all sizes, makes and models, from 20-foot sailboats to 90-foot mega-yachts, says he’s never seen inventory so low.

“Both new and used cannot keep up with demand,” Forsythe said. “My job is to locate a boat for my client, no matter where. “

Yacht broker Paul Enhauser, a business acquaintance with Forsythe who sells (used) brokerage boats for Crow’s Nest in Newport Beach, also travels across the country trying to meet customer demands.

“We all thought when Covid-19 hit business would come to a halt, but it turned out the exact opposite and took off,” Enhauser said. “I could barely meet the demand, a lot of them sold for a high price – definitely a sellers market. “

Despite the high cost of renting slides in Newport Beach, which ranges from $ 750 to $ 1,000 for a 20 foot boat, at some marinas there is a waiting list to park your boat. Enhauser said it was even crazier in the summer, with what he calls “binge eating,” but inventory remains low.

The Balboa Yacht Basin marina owned by the City of Newport Beach.

The Balboa Yacht Basin Marina, owned by the City of Newport Beach, offers 172 berths for vessels from 31 to 75 feet in length.

(Susan Hoffmann)

He said finding used boats that meet all of a given customer’s wishes can be a challenge. Currently, Enhauser is looking for a boat in Connecticut for a local client. ” A lot of us [brokers] thought people who bought boats this year would say ‘what have I done’ and want to sell, but so far we haven’t seen yet, ‘he said.

For Richard Ingold, who grew up in Newport Beach and grew up around boats, there is no chance of buyer’s remorse. He owns a Grand Banks, a large 45-foot Alaskan cruiser from 1974, purchased from Forsythe. He is self-sufficient and has the ability to allow him to go for months.

“I go to the boat every day to check it out and kiss it,” Ingold said.

Ingold said the pandemic changed his adventures. He now spends his vacation closer to home on his boat. He said he felt grateful that Newport Harbor was set up as a vacation spot with all the yacht clubs, moorings and holds, many of which belong to the city.

“Thank goodness I have a boat,” Ingold said. “I can stay at the Balboa Yacht Club on my boat and be surrounded by great people, or rent a guest ticket at Marina Park or drop anchor off Lido Island.”

Susan Hoffman is a Times Community News contributor.

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