Why boating is big this summer

Three ways to make the most of the boating season

Grilling season, beach trips and longer days are here, signaling summer’s long-anticipated arrival. For boating enthusiasts, this only means one thing: boating is back, too. An increased interest in time outdoors, the prospect of reuniting with family and friends and perhaps some saved-up vacation time make this year an especially promising one for all things marine. We’ve rounded up three ways to take advantage of the summer season for recreational boaters—from how to contemplate your next boat purchase, to new creature comforts to enjoy at sea, to on-board advancements worth watching. If you’re one of the 100 million Americans who take to the water each year, read up for some boating inspiration for your summer season.1


Expanded ways to consider your new boat


If you’re looking to purchase a boat today, you’re in good company. Last year, marine sales reached $47 billion—a 13-year high and a nearly 10% jump from the prior year.2 And these trends have all indications of continuing, as sales are strong in 2021 and a combination of virtual and in-person shows have indicated that the industry is off to a robust spring start for both new and used boats.

Boat prices are also up in 2021—10% this year, according to information shared by Business Insider, and vessels aren’t just more expensive—they’re harder to find, too.3 With these trends, boaters are looking to explore all their options for researching and finding new boats.

One thing that the industry has taken forward from 2020 is an increased flexibility in the ways boaters can do shows and sales. Boat shows are beginning to return in-person in 2021, with spring shows reflecting a mix of in-person and virtual options and fall shows like Fort Lauderdale, Newport and Annapolis planned to go on in-person. That means water enthusiasts are once again able to explore options live, connect with other boaters and check out engines, finishes and features on their favorite vessels. Yet the virtual boat show—made popular last year—also endures. Several brands have organized their own virtual shows with abundant resources. Take Boat International and Sail Magazine, for example, where guests can go to discover the ins and outs of several new yachts and their full range of features by way of virtual test rides, product reviews and Q&As.

Virtual private showings also remain an option for those looking to further their process with less travel and more flexibility. For those who are new to the online scene, here are a few best practices: be sure to do your homework on the ship and request information from the seller (including 360-degree view photography of every part of the boat’s body, along with specs and measurements) before a video tour. During the walk-through, have questions at the ready about the boat and its features, from details about the rigging set-up to a visual of how many people can (comfortably) fit in the berth. If the vessel is used, it’s also good to be prepared with a couple of questions specific to its condition and history (such as details about the deck softness and any prior work done on the boat). More tools are available than ever before to conduct research,” Boat International points out. As cited in Boat International, Michael Moore, founding partner of marine-specialist law firm Moore & Company, also recommends requesting and examining key vessel documents, such as logs, inspection certificates, and insurance documents such as claim history.4


Sophisticated comforts for more time on the water


This summer, boaters are looking (with good reason) to stay a while. As such, they’re outfitting their vessel with new luxuries that beckon quality tide time, from food and beverage favorites to timely aesthetic additions. Some options we love:

  • After clocking surplus hours of vitamin D, rest assured you’ll find proper shade with this season’s hardtops, which are now being made in larger sizes than in previous years—a bonus for even the most adamant sun seeker.
  • For “home-away-from-home” treatments with even more UV protection, consider a mini-makeover to the berth, which is bound to benefit from more options for inspired bedding and décor (think throw pillows, artwork and light blankets for evening hours) and on-board entertainment such as sleek hideaway TVs.
  • When hunger strikes, it’s all about the onboard entertaining you’ll be showcasing, thanks to sophisticated galleys with state-of-the-art appliances. Pre-departure, be sure to do the requisite shopping to ensure you have plenty of sunset-ready eats, from sandwiches and charcuterie to salad and skewers.
  • On-deck grills are also taking off. Many manufacturers now offer more than one grill on board. Boaters can choose between gas and charcoal (or both, so long as you have a sous chef to assign to dinner duty).
  • If you think café lattes and freshly baked bread are limited to your home address, think again—this couple showcases their favorite “ridiculous little luxuries” for time at sea and shows that tools to make everything from slow-cooked meats, to cake, to sun-dried tomatoes can have a place on the water, too.

New technology for novice boaters and techies, too


Boating technology continues to advance. Last year saw a particular rise in first-time boat buyers, accounting for as many as half of recent buyers seen by the International Yacht Brokers Association last year.5

With more and more people looking to embrace the currents, the good news is that new technologies created by manufacturers can help newer boaters get their sea legs—as well as help experienced boaters enjoy their time on the water more.

More engines and better electronics are becoming the norm in both powerboats and sailboats. Powerboaters can look to advances in engines, with more boats equipped with advanced dual, triple and even quad engines for better maneuverability. Sailors can thank advents in stabilization—in addition to seeing significant growth in the feature in the outboard segment, manufacturers are focusing their efforts on smaller boats (and at a more reasonable cost than in previous years, too). Certain models are thoughtfully designed to allow for direct-unit control and to make installations easier than ever (be it refit or brand-new). Those efforts to eliminate boat roll can also help sailors avoid feelings of sea-sickness and enjoy as much time as possible in their element.

Joysticks are making waves, too (as seen, for example, at the 2020 San Diego International Boat Show), helping to make docking a breeze in tight quarters. Envision a steering wheel as you’d traditionally see on the dashboard—only now with the addition of joystick control, enabling captains to move boats in every direction with a few flicks of the wrist. Though the feature is more prominently associated with outboard engines, certain manufacturers are showcasing systems that can be added as a retrofit or created as a custom feature during buildout.

What’s one thing we’re watching? The ways the boating industry is taking cues from the auto world. Boats, like cars, are getting smarter and more automated. Boat and car manufacturers alike are advancing self-driving and electric possibilities. And while many mainstream car manufacturers are beginning to debut electric cars, the electric boat industry is comparatively much smaller—though growing in Europe. In the meantime, boaters looking to go green can explore new segments of solar-powered catamarans and yachts. For those looking to start smaller, there are dozens of ways to do so (this article from Sailors for the Sea offers green ideas that span from maintenance ideas to eco-friendly cleaning and paint products to pollution prevention.)

With more flexibility in purchasing options, chic comforts for entertaining or relaxion and technology to excite both the newest and most seasoned boaters, this season is a time on the water that shouldn’t be missed.

Berkley One is a Berkley Company.