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Boat sales show solid gains in November

Posted on December 19th, 2014
Written by Jack Atzinger

The numbers weren’t nearly as large as boatbuilders and dealers typically see at midsummer, but the industry had another strong month in November, posting double-digit sales gains.

Sales rose 11.2 percent in the main powerboat segments, to 2,799, and 12.4 percent industrywide, to 3,969, from the same month last year in 26 early-reporting states that represent about 63 percent of the national market, Statistical Surveys said today.

In November last year, main-segments sales fell 1.5 percent and industrywide sales dropped 2.6 percent in 28 states. The month is typically one of the slowest of the year for boat sales. By contrast, the industry sold 23,402 boats in 31 early-reporting states in July of this year.

“I would say it’s a pleasant surprise,” Ryan Kloppe, national marine sales manager at Statistical Surveys, said of the November results this year. “[November] is one of the slower months, but to see double-digit growth to close out the year is fantastic.”


Click to enlarge.

Outboard fiberglass boats from 11 to 40 feet led the main segments with 1,433 November sales, an increase of 21.3 percent. The industry has sold 38,320 fiberglass outboards in the early-reporting states through November, more than in any other category in the main segments.

Industrywide, only personal watercraft sales (44,173 through November) are higher. Kloppe said the industry will probably sell 10,000 more PWC this year than it did in 2013.

Sales of aluminum pontoon boats rose 10.3 percent in November, to 397, and sales of aluminum fishing boats climbed 4.5 percent, to 727.

Through November in the early-reporting states, sales totaled 125,397 in the main segments, an increase of 5.4 percent, and 202,039 industrywide, an increase of 8.6 percent that puts the industry within 5,000 boats of the 2013 overall sales total of 207,277 for all 50 states.

Kloppe said that on a percentage basis, November’s gains are about where the industry is likely to finish the year.

Sales were higher in nine of the top 10 selling states in November than they were a year earlier.

Florida was the November sales leader with 1,451 boats, a gain of 246; Texas ranked second at 582, a gain of 76; North Carolina was third at 209, a drop of seven; California ranked fourth at 208, a gain of 25; and South Carolina ranked fifth at 202, a gain of 74.

Rounding out the top 10, Arkansas had 197 sales, a gain of 59; Michigan had 144, a gain of 11; Tennessee had 132, a gain of 28; Washington had 128, a gain of 25; and Delaware had 103, a gain of 19.

The Coast Guard was up to date in its reports of documented vessels, providing a complete picture of sales in the low-volume, bigger-boat categories. Sales of 31- to 40-foot cruisers fell by 10, to 52, sales of 41- to 62-foot yachts rose by five, to 47, and sales of 63- to 99-foot yachts rose by three, to 13.

Among smaller vessels, sales of personal watercraft rose by 73 units, to 417, and ski-boat sales rose by 29, to 116. Jetboat sales fell by three, to 42.

Sailboat sales rose by 20, to 94.

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A Chaotic World of Water

The first leg of the Volvo Ocean race is really five different races rolled into one. The seven boats left warm and sunny Alicante, Spain, heading west across the choppy Mediterranean before sailing through the Straits of Gibraltar and out into the mighty Atlantic Ocean. Next they turned south along the coast of West Africa in moderately steady winds until they neared the equator. Then it was time to sail west across the spooky equatorial area of wind-sucking storms known as the Doldrums, over to a small island off Brazil, which they rounded like a buoy.
    The fourth race found the boats barreling down the lush South American coast, riding the gentle Trade Winds until they reached the Roaring 40s, where the cold wind and water racing north from Antarctica hit them right in the face.
    Then the final race began with the boats turning their bows to the northeast for the 30-knot roller coaster ride into Capetown, South Africa.
    This first leg is generally a four-week crash course in survival. There are rookies and old hands on each boat, thrown together in a 65-foot torture chamber where they are denied sleep and food while getting water-boarded for hours on end.
    In this chaotic world of water, moisture creeps its way into everything. Every little movement becomes complicated and threatening as sailors try to maintain their slippery balance while the waves smash against the hull. When you fall, there’s usually blood and nasty bruises, like playing rugby on ice in a room with rough edges. Equipment — toilets, rudder, the desalinator, electronics — break without warning; gear gets soaked; and the boats are steadily springing leaks. Sikaflex sealant literally keeps the multi-million-dollar boats afloat.
    The first week of this year’s race found the new one-design boats all sailing within sight of one another. Proximity made for an unprecedented and stressful ride. With windy waves constantly pounding the boats, the crews were running around changing sails, trimming and bailing, each trying desperately to grab the lead. No one slept for the first three days. Usually too tired to eat anything more than cereal and protein bars, seasickness brought some to their shaky knees.
    Round two was a lick-your-wounds cruise with the sand dunes of the Western Sahara on the left and the lights from small fishing villages twinkling in the dark. Mysterious volcanic worlds, like the mountainous Canary and Cape Verde islands, rose majestically out of the sea. Day and night, the boats dodged small fishing vessels and their rudder-snagging nets. Marvelous sea creatures like dolphins, whales and head-smashing flying fish followed the fleet.
    As the sailors sailed south, they constantly tacked, trying to be the first to find fresh winds. Every time they tacked — sometimes several times an hour — it was all hands on deck, including those who were off-duty and asleep, shifting several tons of food, sails and gear from one side of the boat to the other, often over 15 minutes.
    Brian Carlin on Team Vestas described the daily grind: “In the four hours you’re on watch, duties can vary from driving the boat, to trimming sails, making coffee, looking at other boats to spot changes in sail plans, navigating and watching everything — the way the waves might change direction, the clouds change shape, the moon breaking through the clouds to illuminate the competition under its light. Always watching.”
    At first, everyone was pretty wigged out by the close-order sailing more like a never-ending in-shore ocean race. But the novelty of being surrounded by the competition wore off as each boat established its daily rhythm: sunrises, sunsets and thunder-cloud storm cells of intense beauty and power; four hours on and four hours off; savoring some freeze-dried Thai green curry chicken, an orange or a melted candy bar; and trying not to get hurt.
    “We are nine, in a very small space, with all of our things, smells and snoring,” wrote Francisco Vignale, onboard MAPFRE on Day 7.
    The Doldrums brought a whole new set of obstacles as chronicled by Corinna Halloran on SCA.
    “This morning the boat was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Shortly after sunup we were honking along at 20 knots in a torrential downpour. By late afternoon we were sailing backwards. And who knows what tonight will bring.”
    The start of the first leg is always the infamous Southern Ocean. After sailing smoothly down the spectacular coast of South America, the Volvos reached the 40th latitude, where the whole world suddenly changed, as best reported by Armory Ross on Alvimedica.
    “As the boat careens through the night like an out of control freight train, carving a trench through the ocean while obliterating every bit of water in its way, it is constantly loud like the rumble of distant thunder. You can actually hear the speed, feel the speed. People on deck are yelling, bags down below are flying, and waves are shooting through the hatch.”
    And up on deck?
    Yann Riou, on Dong Feng, painted this violent picture. “Reaching in 25-30 knots of wind means that you’re sailing fast and crashing. On deck, you spend your time taking tons of water in the face. You don’t see the waves coming, so you cannot anticipate it. The heeling angle quickly becomes unbearable. To walk across the boat, you’re facing a mobile climbing wall. Three days like this and you’re knocked out.”
    And then, it’s over. After 25 days, and 6,487 miles, Abu Dhabi won Leg 1, finishing a mere 12 minutes ahead of Dong Feng.
    Nest stop: Abu Dhabi.

Follow the race at

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