The Boating Industries Association of Upstate New York, and New York boat dealers and marina operators, are optimistic about the 2014 boating season and taking advantage of trends to attract buyers of all ages and lifestyles.
BIA President Bruce Walker, sales and service manager with Reiter's Marina in Sandy Creek, said, "The Boating Industries Association members are upbeat about 2014. Lifelong boaters are passing on the love of boating and safety tips to the younger generations, the economy is picking up, and finance rates have fallen to offer the boating industry in upstate New York a bright outlook this year."
Oneida Lake Marina co-owner Debbie Scarpinato of Canastota described the boating experience that lures buyers, noting the increasing popularity of pontoon boats.
"More and more people are looking at pontoon boats for their affordability," she said. "Pontoons are now made like floating living rooms: comfortable for adults, kids and dogs. They are easy to operate; quieter; can be customized with double decker slides, barbecues, bars and fishing accessories; and will rock you to sleep at night."
Scarpinato said pontoon buyers include all ages, anglers, couples and families.
Jeff Kennedy of Morgan Marine in Penn Yan said, "More people, including first-time boaters, Boomers, and families with children want boats that offer ease of entry. The pontoons have extended sun platforms and easy rear entries, but the utilitarian Boston Whalers and sporty fiberglass runabouts also remain popular with boaters.
"The pricing range of the different styles of vessels allows more people to consider upgrading or buying a first boat."
Over the past three years, Kennedy has invested in his family-owned operation on Keuka Lake with the construction of new docks and purchase of two cottages, a bunkhouse, and property for a new storage and service complex.
With a developer building a new hotel nearby, we also see growth in the boat rental market here," he said.
John Jablonski, owner of The Sailboat Shop in Skaneateles, and his general manager, Chris Beardsley, are promoting interest in wake surfing - riding a board on the waves created in the wake of a small boat.
"Wakeboarding is a trend just starting to catch on in New York state," Beardsley said. "The lower speed, lower impact makes wake surfing open to more people than waterskiing."
The Sailboat Shop has recently become the dealer of Tige wakesurfing boats in the area from Central New York north to the Adirondacks and Canada, south to Pennsylvania, west to Medina, and east to Albany and half of New England. The manufacturer has not been in the area for at least 15 years.
"We have studied the wake surfing trend for about five years, and now is the time for us to add this style of boat to our business mix," Jablonski said.
The Sailboat Shop will host a series of wake surf demonstrations on various lakes in the Central and Finger Lakes regions this summer.
In recent years, the Boating Industries Association of Upstate New York has sponsored boating safety education and a monthly series of boating tips offered on a cable network reaching 25 counties.
BIA partners with New York Sea Grant to offer free in-water life jacket safety demonstrations at the show. New York Sea Grant Coastal Recreation and Tourism Specialist Dave White teaches the different types of life jackets, the boating regulations associated with life jackets, and how to get a good fit for everyone in the family - including the family dog.
"People are listening about protecting themselves and their pets, and more of the dealer exhibits at boat shows are offering life jackets for sale, with a number of vessels sporting stuffed canines wearing life jackets," said White, who received a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary "Wear It!" award for excellence in life jacket education at the show.
Lisa Spiegel of Starcraft said, "We have kids and two dogs on our boat on the St. Lawrence River all the time, and none of them get onboard without a life jacket."
For more information on the BIA, which provides diverse resources to the boating industry, advises state and federal governments on marine issues, and has members located in the 1000 Islands, Fingers Lakes, Central New York and Oneida Lake regions of New York, visit www.cnybia.com.