In a normal year, this is the time my family starts to wonder if they’re ever going to see me again. The dog days of summer abruptly transition to autumn squalls, with fall boat shows in full swing, a flock of new boats needing sea trials, and a frenetic travel schedule to match.
Adding to the chaos, the school year is also in session, bringing its own cacophony of midnight lunch-packing offensives, homework decoding missions and viral grenades sent home courtesy of the snotty kid in class. The struggle always poses a challenge, but as we all know, this year is a whole new game.
Since April, because of Covid-19, I’ve watched the traditional lineup of boat shows and owner rendezvous drop with the relentless inevitability of leaves in fall. A late-spring poll from the National Marine Manufacturers Association revealed that manufacturers were experiencing supply chain disruptions and were unable to operate anywhere near their usual capacity.
Thankfully, workplace and travel restrictions eased, and the Covid disruptions proved temporary. Over the summer, watercraft sales surged in the United States and continue to do so, boat shows or not. According to the Chicago Tribune, Google searches for powerboats are up a thundering 70 percent year over year. There’s evidence that first-time buyers are driving the surge. That’s a great sign.
Another strong sign is that boating’s new customer base, which had been aging for years, has taken a turn. For the first time in a decade, the number of new-boat buyers younger than 40 surpassed the number of buyers older than 60, according to a Florida firm that tracks new- and used-boat registrations. The speculation is that families with children at home (mine included) are seeking a means of escape and are heading down to the sea in droves, looking for safe ways to beat the pandemic blues.
Boatbuilders are responding to that demand with a substantial lineup of new models set to roll out this fall and early next year. What excites us most about this year’s class, as you’ll read in our New Boats Preview on page 36, is that each of these new boats brings something fresh to the table, at a time when we could all use a little inspiration and innovation.
In our corner of the publishing world, covering new yachts and cruising has brought significant challenges as well. A new era of digital boat shows is upon us. In the AIM Marine Group, our editors, in coordination with brand partners and industry experts, launched our own digital boat show, which remains ongoing. As this issue goes to press, our team is hard at work planning the first-ever “TrawlerFest LIVE” event for this fall.
Yes, faithful cruisers, the show must go on. We’ll do our part to keep you up to date on the latest and greatest boats and the cruising lifestyle, both here and on our digital channels. You do your part and get out on the water.
Introducing the “Classic Cruisers Club”
For some, classic cruising boats represent fond memories. For others, they’re an ongoing passion. Our newest feature, the Classic Cruisers Club, is proof that both groups are correct. In each issue, we’ll talk to the owner of a classic passagemaker about what he or she loves most about their boat. In our first installment, we speak with 63-year-old Steve Murdock of Michigan, who has owned his Fleming 55 Pilothouse, Patriot, for four years. After a boating career centered largely around sport cruisers, he’s not afraid to roll up his sleeves, taking on numerous projects to make Patriot her cruising best.