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Navigating the New Normal on the Water

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3 mins read

In the era of the coronavirus pandemic, finding ways to recreate outdoors has become an important survival tool. Last year, the boating industry saw a record number of new boat owners on the water. Both new boaters, and seasoned boaters alike, changed their habits to social distance naturally while making the most of their love for the recreational outlet. According to a survey of 3,500 boaters by Sea Tow Services International, we can expect this trend to continue into the 2021 summer season.

 Pandemic-influenced boating behavior:

  • 52% of boaters surveyed anticipate their boating activity to increase this summer compared to last.
  • 20% cite the pandemic as the reason for extending their boating season again in 2021.
  • 24% plan to vacation on/by boat (versus other forms of travel) because of the pandemic.
  • 35% plan to use their boat primarily for cruising near their home.
  • 16% upgraded to a larger boat in 2020 or plan to do so in 2021.
  • 52% plan to use their boat primarily for fishing (65% in-shore / 30% off-shore / 5% freshwater).
  • 30% have found it more difficult to find dockage and/or marina space.

“Our member survey has typically been a very strong indicator for seasonal recreational boating trends,” said Kristen Frohnhoefer, President of Sea Tow. “Last year, Sea Tow saw a 34% increase in requests for on-water assistance in the summer of 2020, and our nationwide network of captains are anticipating another busy season for 2021.” 

With the sale of a record number of new boats in over a decade and an influx of new boaters, Sea Tow noted that in 2020 owners of new boats were 142% more likely to need ungrounding services, 108% more likely to need fuel delivered to them and 11.2% more likely to need a battery jump. Alternately, new boat owners are 22% less likely to need a tow.

“These numbers are very interesting,” Frohnhoefer says, “they reflect the fact that new boaters are not yet familiar with things like shifting sandbars and hard to navigate channels, or how to manage their fuel, like their more seasoned counterparts – which is getting them into trouble and causing them to call us for assistance. But likewise, these stats demonstrate what we’ve been saying all along – that when it comes to new boats, on-water assistance typically is needed due to user error, not mechanical failure, as newer boats and engines are more reliable than ever before.”

With the number of new boaters recreating on the water, the need for boating education has never been more important. 69% of boaters surveyed are looking for more advice on local navigational assistance, mishap prevention and general boating basics.

“2021 is sure to be another banner year for boating,” says Frohnhoefer, “with the unofficial start of summer only a few weeks away, we’ll find out real soon if these trends for recreational boating activity are in fact here to stay.”

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