Archive for » December 23rd, 2014«

Cobalt Boats dealers dominate annual rankings

Posted on December 23rd, 2014

Five of the top 10 dealers in Boating Industry’s Top 100 Boat Dealers in North America were Cobalt Boats dealers.

Gordy’s Lakefront Marine in Fontana, Wis., was selected as the No. 1 dealer in North America.

“Their commitment to Cobalt Boats is unwavering and they continue to play a leadership role in our dealer network,” Cobalt sales and marketing vice president Gavan Hunt said in a statement. “The team at Gordy’s consistently wows their customers with 100 percent customer satisfaction. Their winning attitude and phenomenal team spirit drive success in everything they do.”

The top 10 list also included Singleton (No. 3); Seattle Boat Co. (No. 5); Parks Marina (No. 6); and Strong’s Marine (No. 7).

Rounding out the top 20, Cobalt dealers that were honored include the Hagadone Marine Group (No. 15) and Action Water Sports (No. 17). Legendary Marine, the 2012 and 2013 Dealer of the Year, was inducted into the Top 100 Hall of Fame.

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World Ocean School: sailing with a purpose

For just $10 and some elbow grease the World Ocean School found its floating classroom: a 1925 fishing schooner named the Roseway, whose previous owner had surrendered it to a bank.

In college Abby Kidder and Dwight Deckelmann, cofounders of the World Ocean School, wanted to start a project that would encourage young people to learn to think less about themselves and more about others. “We were … seeing kids who were so absorbed in their own circle and themselves,” Ms. Kidder says. “Our primary mission is to help kids … not just sort of drop out.”

She and Mr. Deckelmann eventually concluded that a boat, where kids would be forced to be team players as part of the crew, would be the ideal setting.

“Boats inherently force community building. You have to work things out on a boat,” says Kidder, who grew up sailing small boats in Maine.

Since launching the Roseway on its maiden voyage in 2005, Kidder; Deckelmann, the boat’s captain; and the crew have invited about 2,000 young people on board each year to work and sail on the historical 137-foot schooner that they were able to restore thanks to $1.1 million in donations.

The students are engaged in hands-on learning and in building positive relationships with the crew and the six staff members. The school’s programs – from day programs for inner-city youths in Boston to week-long summer expeditions for teens from around the world – also focus heavily on academics and promoting good ethical choices for the children who participate.

As students come aboard they surrender their cellphones and iPads – anything that has an on-off switch. They learn how to raise the sail by hand, stay up for anchor watch (night watch), and take turns in the galley preparing meals.

It isn’t easy, says Jessica Arbaiza, a program participant two years ago.

But it made a lasting impression on her.

As part of the program her group volunteered at a soup kitchen in Portland, Maine. One man told her and the rest of the crew to keep smiling because “all of you guys smiling helps us out a little bit.”

“It was one of the best experiences in my life,” says the high school senior, whose trip, like many others, was sponsored by a benefactor. Two years later, she says, she still uses the community-building skills she gained on the ship at school.

Working on board the Roseway in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, where the ship winters, allowed Kidder to see another aspect of the program. “That was a huge wake-up call just because of the … kids down there,” she says. “While it’s US territory, it’s practically a third-world country. Most of the kids who live on that island have never stepped foot off the island. They’ve never been on the water.

“I remember one of the girls as we left. We sailed about three miles out from the harbor there with the kids, and as we got out there she looked back to see the island and she said, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen what my island looks like, and it’s so beautiful.’ ”

That comment from a girl who had been nervous to sail hit home for Kidder.

“Despite the fact that here we are, and we’re trying to teach them about math and science and language arts, and in the context of experiential learning on the ship, what she was taking away from it was just this huge new perspective of there’s a bigger world out there, there’s different ways to see things.”

Watching one girl overcoming fear to see a new, bigger picture also helped Kidder realize her program was making a real difference. “And those sorts of things happen all the time,” she says.

• For more information, visit

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Sheppard expecting kinder weather

Wollongong yachtsman Derek Sheppard is expecting kinder conditions in his second Sydney to Hobart.

Derek Sheppard (at the helm) and the crew of Black Sheep ahead of the Sydney to Hobart.


Wollongong yachtsmen Derek Sheppard is expecting kinder conditions in his second Sydney to Hobart as a skipper when the Bluewater Classic launches on Boxing Day.

Last year’s race was Sheppard’s first as skipper of Black Sheep, the 45-footer he acquired with brother Martin in April 2013, which finished a credible ninth in division three.

“We were going very well in the first half but then when we got hit by a gale that tested us a bit,” Sheppard said.

“We ended up a bit too far out to sea and the waves were a bit big so we lost a bit of time getting back in but overall we were happy how we went.”

Conditions are expected to be kinder to smaller boats after a roaring south-westerly front off the east coast of Tasmania battered the back half of the field in the latter stages of last year’s race.

“I think it’ll suit the smaller boats better than the bigger boats and we’re kind of in between so we’re not totally out of the picture from a weather perspective,” Sheppard said.

“It’s looking like a pretty tough first night with some quite strong winds from the South but it’s looking pretty light in the middle of the race so that’ll slow everybody down.

“If we’re a little bit slow getting down to Tasman Island we might get beaten up a little bit.”

Sheppard said the conditions will make the handicap aspect of the race interesting.

“The good thing for the little boats is they’ll have the chance of making some ground on handicap,” he said.

“The fast boats will hit the light spot and slow down so from a handicap perspective it will be harder for them to achieve the required speed relative to the smaller boats. In theory if everybody sails to their handicaps and the weather plays into your hands you can sail at the best speed for your size.”

At the front of the field Sheppard said US super-maxi Comanche will rightly start favourite but the weather could suit seven-time winner Wild Oats XI.

“Comanche’s probably got to be the favourite because it’s the latest and greatest but I think the weather is playing into Wild Oats’ hands quite nicely,” he said.

“For [Wild Oats] it’ll be quite light in the latter half of the race and they’re a bit narrower so they should do quite well there and make up the ground they may lose a bit earlier.

“I think all the lead boats are quite different in their designs so they’ll have weather windows that work for them and windows that work against them.”

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BoatSales of Lake Wylie project tops $1 million

Drought, devastating recession and crippling fuel prices. BoatSales of Lake Wylie has seen and survived all three since opening in 2006.

“People ask us about the recession a lot, but we also had to outlast that drought, too, and fuel prices when they shot up,” said Vic Winebarger, the owner of Boat Sales of Lake Wylie. “It wasn’t long after 2008 we were the only game in town.”

But Winebarger’s company survived the lean times and is now poised to capitalize on Lake Wylie’s growth. The company recently bought and refurbished of a new $1 million retail and showroom facility next door to its current operation on Charlotte Highway in Lake Wylie. That’s the building that was once home to the River Rat Restaurant and, later, Roadhouse Lounge (the River Rat restaurant is still open on S.C. 557).

Winebarger envisions the new space as a full-service “ship store,” that will offer a full parts department, a new Yamaha outboard motor room, apparel, watersports equipment and marine safety products.


It’s all changed

Winebarger, who’s been in the marine industry since 1985, said the expansion is his first since the end of the recession.

 “You had manufacturers mothballing their plants and many just never came back,” Winebarger said.

The cruiser and high performance boat markets, in particular, have never recovered, Winebarger said. Industry wide, sales are still roughly 40 percent lower than they were in 2005 to 2006. Aluminum fishing boat sales also remain far below their peak in the late 1990s, he said.

That’s not to say it’s been all bad news, Winebarger said. He expects pontoon boat sales to be roughly 25 percent higher this year than last year, and newer four stroke outboard motors — generally more fuel efficient than their sterndrive motor counterparts — will be his top seller.

“The pontoons are a good fit for a lot of customers,” Winebarger said. “Particularly families, because of the space they offer. Combine that with an aluminum deck, which costs a little more but lasts forever, and pontoons just make sense.”


Surviving on parts, service and preowned

A key feature of his operation? An electric trolling motor repair area that he called one of the keys to surviving the recession.

“Guys fishing tournaments can’t wait a week to get their trolling motors fixed,” Winebarger said. “We’ve always offered fast repairs, but now that service work will be done in our new building.”

Boats and their accessories, especially complex electric trolling motors and gas powered outboard engines, are big ticket items, Winebarger said.

“Customers want assurances that they’re going to be able to get these things serviced and repaired when they need to,” Winebarger said.

But many of the dealers and shops that serviced those customers went out of business, leaving boat owners in a lurch, Winebarger said.

“It really opened up that work for us and we took advantage of it,” Winebarger said. “Considering the fact that nobody could get financing for a new boat of any kind for a couple years, that service work was huge for us.” 


Banking on Lake Wylie

While the marine industry hasn’t fully recovered, Winebarger believes his operation is well positioned, considering Lake Wylie’s explosive growth.

“The growth of this place in recent years has just been phenomenal,” Winebarger said. “I think we’ll approach 35,000 cars driving past this place every day, and that’s huge for a business our size.”

And the reaction to his restaurant retrofit?

“We’ve had a lot of people that have already dropped by and told us they appreciated us sort of keeping that place alive,” Winebarger said. “When you hear comments like that, you know you’ve done something right.”

What: BoatSales of Lake Wylie expansion

Who: Vic Winebarger

Purchase price: $1 million

Projected opening: Mid-January

Address: 4376 Charlotte Hwy., Lake Wylie, SC

Contact: Call 803-631-5430 for more information

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Boats set to fill the Sound for regatta

Boats of all shapes and sizes will cruise into Rockingham on Saturday to take part in the 57th annual Cockburn Sound Regatta.

Regatta committee chairman Alan Campbell said more than 80 vessels would take to the water during the five-day event, beginning with a Fremantle to Rockingham race on Boxing Day.

He said competitors would compete in various size divisions, including, for the first time, an event for kite-boarders.

“There will be 10 different categories over the week, from the division one 60-footers to the juniors,” Mr Campbell said.

“We’ve quite a lot of juniors taking part this year and it’s the first time the regatta has included kite-surfers.

“We will be holding a live broadcast at the TCYC and spectators will be able to enjoy excellent visibility from any one of the cafes and restaurants along the strip.”

Mr Campbell said an overall winner would be named on December 30, but there were lots of prizes up for grabs for competitors.

He said The Cruising Yacht Club would also hold a public open day on Monday next week to showcase the sailing and social membership packages on offer.

“We have a team of volunteers helping out with the regatta – there are about 60 of them who will be helping out with breakfasts, lunches and dinners for competitors and ferrying them back and forth to their boats, which will be out on the moorings.”

Mr Campbell said he had been assured works to the jetty would be complete and accessible for regatta officials, but not yet for members of the public.

The public open day on December 29 runs between 11am and 11pm.

The West Australian

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