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Declining boat sales reflect economic uncertainty

Soutuveneit venepaikoilla.

Despite declining boat sales in Finland, rowboats and motorboats continue to be popular.

Image: Väinö Kautto, Äänekoski

The ongoing economic uncertainty means that many Finns are putting off the purchase of a new boat. Instead, they’re fixing up ones that they already own.

According to boat retailers, many shops have had to re-negotiate prices in order to seal a sale. Boats costing less than 50,000 euros are still being sold, but the sales of more expensive vessels (those costing more than 50,000 euros) are almost at a standstill.

Boaters are also operating on thriftier budgets by planning more fuel-efficent trips and using their vessels more sparingly.

Nevertheless, the popularity of boating in Finland is not sailing away any time soon. There are some 800,000 boats – the majority of which are small rowboats and motorboats – in a country with 5.4 million people.

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Full speed ahead: Florida boat builders seeing brisk sales

Sleek white couches, sultry blue light and a suited bartender transformed the basic North Miami Beach showroom into an exclusive art gallery. But on this recent summer’s eve, the wine-sipping crowd wasn’t waiting for the latest work by a contemporary art darling. When the black cloak was swept away, the cheers went up for the 339 Cabin, the newest $400,000-plus luxury powerboat from Miami-based Deep Impact Boats.

The tony event was a sure sign that for Florida’s $2 billion boat manufacturing industry, the seas ahead look far smoother than those of the past few years, when marine sales for some plunged more than 30 percent.

The marine industry’s recovery wave has been building. Attendance at the Miami International Boat Show jumped 6 percent this year over troubled 2009; the number of boats shown at the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show increased about 6 percent last November over 2009, too. Boat financers that were scarce just a few years ago are slipping back into lending. Nationally, recreational boat sales jumped 10 percent in 2012.

“Consumer confidence increased for the third consecutive month in June and is now at its highest level since January 2008, which mirrors boating industry sales,” the National Marine Manufacturing Association said in a statement.

But buyers are still more cautious than in richer days. Many are trading down from 50-foot-plus boats with inboard engines to smaller models that cost less to maintain, said Jeff Johnson, president of Maritime Finance. Outboard engines are popular among these more manageable vessels — nearly half the boats on the water in 2012 ran on outboard power, according to the NMMA. Craving more versatility, buyers are also choosing vessels fit for fishing, diving and socializing, said Thomas Dammrich, president of the trade group.

Still, the outlook is far rosier than it used to be for Florida’s 172 boat builders, the most in any state.

In South Florida, companies like Deep Impact Boats and Cigarette Racing Team are capitalizing on demand for smaller, more social and cost-effective boats, while yacht giants like Bertram Yacht and Broward Shipyard are heading to the drawing boards to conjure innovations and drum up revenue in service departments.

Rich Haasse, long-time boat buff and owner of Anclote Harbors Marina in Tarpon Springs, was among those at the Deep Impact unveiling. Haasse has jumped from sailboats to cruisers to 60-foot-plus luxury yachts. But now his sights are set on a Deep Impact 399 Cabin.

“It just fits my lifestyle,” he said. He pointed to the cabin’s profile. “The lines follow the slant of the hull and give it a certain sexiness. That design makes all the difference in the world in terms of appearance,” Haasse said.

The hull is a double-stepped deep vee, just like its 36-foot counterpart and other models in the Deep Impact fleet. “It allows for a smooth, dry ride,” said marketing director Mark Gianassi. Stepped hulls let air stream beneath the boat, lifting the body out of the water, decreasing drag and allowing the boat to go faster while the engine burns less fuel, he said.

The 399 Cabin has a 470-gallon fuel capacity, and the Mercury four-stroke outboard motors that typically outfit Deep Impact’s boats burn about one mile per gallon, Gianassi says. “Boaters get a 400-mile range before needing to refuel,” he said. Unlike inboard engines, outboard engines aren’t sensitive to ethanol-infused fuel, making the outboards easier to maintain, said Randy Sweers, owner of, a boat dealership and brokerage in Pompano Beach.

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Jack Chippendale

Jack Chippendale, who has died aged 87, was the best builder of small boats in Britain at a time in the 1950s and 60s when the sport of dinghy sailing was in the ascendancy and before mass-produced fibreglass boats became the norm. Chippendale worked in wood, and his products had the quality of the furniture that carries the same name. Made in his boatyard in Fareham, Hampshire, his were boats to treasure.

The son of a marine engineer in Portsmouth, Jack inherited his father’s detailed approach to work. His maxim was that if the fit was not perfect, it would be done again – be it a hull plank, deck beam or thwart. It was a practice that served him well when preparing boats in kit form: those who bought them this way, to save money, were usually not competent shipwrights, and needed every bit of assistance they could obtain.

He was a believer in the apprenticeship system, having served his own time from the age of 14, during which he had to work 12-hour days and Sunday mornings. When his apprenticeship ended, he set up business on his own in 1947 and formed Chippendale Boats in 1954. He treated his own apprentices very differently, while ensuring they knew how to do each job properly, believing it would ultimately make his business more profitable.

At first, he restricted his building to the National 12 and Merlin Rocket classes, many constructed to the designs of Ian Proctor, who lived in nearby Warsash. At that time, the traditional clinker building style, with overlapping planks fastened together using clenched copper nails, was giving way to plywood planks glued together with adhesives developed during the second world war for aircraft construction. Jack was one of the first to master this type of boat building.

Jack Chippendale
Jack Chippendale with his MBE insignia. Photograph: Nick Butcher/Archant 2011

Early in his career, he was approached by the dinghy sailor Noel Jordan to build a 25ft Folkboat, a class in which he became the first commercial builder in Britain. Named Martha McGilda, the boat won the East Anglian offshore championship in 1954, and was then sold to Lady Rozelle Raynes, who cruised her extensively in the Baltic. Jack built many more of the class and they remain sought after today.

Success brought him increasing numbers of customers. Dinghy sailors often reckoned it was next to impossible to win major events in certain classes without a Chippendale boat. Indeed, of the top 12 boats at one particular Merlin Rocket national championship, nine – including the winner – came from his Fareham yard.

In 1962, he built the prototype Fireball dinghy for the designer Peter Milne. It was a far cry from the boats he had been building: a double-chined 16ft plywood dinghy that was aimed at the do-it-yourself market. It was an outstanding success, and Chippendale Boats was appointed the sole professional builder of the class. Among his clients was Ted Heath, for whom he built Blue Heather in the late 1960s, the future prime minister’s first foray into sailing before his succession of Morning Cloud yachts. The Fireball was soon accepted as an international class, and these boats are still raced today in Australia, Thailand and the US, as well as all over Britain.

In 1968, Jack made what he considered to be his only mistake in business, when he appointed a financial director. Within two years, Jack had to shut down the company. This meant losing all the craftsmen who had been with him for years, many of whom had been apprenticed to Chippendale Boats. Jack moved to Norfolk to start over again. It was far from easy, but his meticulous approach to boat building soon brought new work.

Many of his customers became friends, and Jack delighted in hearing from them and of their successes in the boats he had built. Above all, he liked to share his talents and ensure the crafts he had mastered were passed on to a new generation. In his later years, he operated from Wroxham Barns, where he spent many happy hours telling visitors what he was doing – to the extent that he often had to stay after closing time in order to complete his work.

He was a council member of the Ship and Boat Builders National Federation (now the British Marine Federation), and continued working until late in his life. “Seventy-three years and still going,” he said at the end of last year. In 2010 he was appointed MBE.

His wife, Freda, predeceased him. He is survived by his stepdaughter, Karen.

Jack Chippendale, boat builder, born 1 May 1924; died 24 February 2012

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