Archive for » February 18th, 2015«

January boat sales continue upward momentum

The 2014 surge in powerboat sales continued into January 2015, according to Info-Link’s latest Bellwether report.

Overall sales were up about 8 percent year-over-year in Bellwether states on a rolling 12-month basis.

The Bellweather report tracks boat sales across the country based on new U.S. boat registrations. Bellwether states are geographically dispersed states representing roughly half of the US boat market (varies by market segment and time of year).

The overall patterns were relatively unchanged from most of 2014, with PWC showing the strongest growth for the period, up about 25 percent in Bellwether states. The Sport Fish and Ski Boat segments were up about 15 percent for the last 12 months year-over-year.

Overall outboard sales were up about 10 percent in the January report. The only category to see fewer sales was sterndrive/jet, although the decline was less than 5 percent on a rolling 12-month basis.

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Boat builder looking to share love of sailing

Walt Lewis doesn’t consider himself a hobby enthusiast, but his knack for building and love of sailing has resulted in a yard and houseful of ornate wooden ships and lighthouses. One can almost hear the seagulls calling when you stop by his Selma home.

Along with numerous lighthouses and painted seascapes, Lewis, 93, has built three large sailing ships. Rather than simply leave them sitting on his dining room table, though, he is hoping to find a home for them where they can inspire boating and history enthusiasts.

“I work with my hands all the time, but I’m not hobbyist,” Lewis says. His interest in sailing ships began when he was a child and saw a picture in a dictionary.

“It fascinated me. I’ve always had a passion for sailing ships since I was kid. I wondered if I could build one so I tried it and it worked.”

Growing up in Iowa, Lewis was nowhere near the ocean until he finally got a chance to sail while serving in the U.S. Navy aboard the U.S.S. Arctic from 1941 to 1946 during World War II. He first served as a seaman and learned all about operating a ship, he says.

“I was in charge of the boat deck for a while, and I’ve been at the helm of the ship.”

After moving up the ranks, he was discharged with the rank of 1st Class Boatswain Mate.

Afterward, he worked as a painter for his career and got a chance to sail again when he moved closer to his youngest son who at that point lived in San Diego.

You can hear the pride in his voice when he talks of the three sons he and wife, Celeste, raised – teachers Gary and Barry and artist Larry. In April, the couple will have been married 72 years.

“She’s the sweetest woman on earth,” he says of Celeste.

After health problems set in, the couple moved back to the Valley in 2000 to be closer to their middle son. Now, Lewis focuses his time on visiting his wife as she’s cared for at a senior care facility in Kingsburg.

His love for sailing hasn’t waned through the years, though, and he’s built several boats that fill his home.

Listening to Lewis explain the history and purpose of each the replicas of a clipper, windjammer and Viking ship is like taking a journey through sea-faring history.

For example, a fleet of windjammers known as the North Star Fleet was instrumental in the growth of the Pacific Northwest during the turn of the century when the ships would travel between Alaska and San Francisco carrying salmon and lumber between the destinations.

When you notice all the details – from the miniature anchors to motifs on the sails – you’ll appreciate that these larger replicas were all fashioned without pre-made plans and created from Lewis’ imagination.

“I didn’t go to a hobby shop. First, you do all your plans and make the patterns. I just took it from scale and worked from that,” he said of the process to create the ships. “I used papier-mâché and fabric to cover the hull and follow the form. I did read up on sailing ships to know how large they were and where they traveled.”

He’s hoping the boats will spark young ones’ imagination to undertake projects that may seem challenging.

“If even just one or two young people see those and think that a person did this from scratch, not from a model, it will inspire them to tackle something they didn’t think they could do.”

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