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Boat numbers slowly recovering in Florida, Brevard after economic downturn

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The new public access boat ramps at Port Canaveral opened July 26. It features more boat launching slips and a closer access to the ocean. By Tim Walters, Malcolm Denemark and Dave Berman Posted July 29, 2014

While Florida’s population swelled, the number of boats registered in the Sunshine State sank for seven years straight, only inching back up in the past few years as economic recovery put more wind in people’s sails.

There were 95,593 fewer registered vessels in Florida in 2016 than 10 years ago, a 9.3 percent dip. Florida’s registered vessels topped 1 million in 2007. But as the economy stalled, boats bottomed out at 896,632 in 2013, according to statistics recently released by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Boating has gradually eked back over the past three years, to 931,450 vessels. 

Some local boaters say they threw in their captain’s hat because of frustration over too many go-slow zones and other regulations. Others point to the expense.But boat builders and sellers say boat sales locally and nationwide suffered the same downslide seen statewide and nationally, despite relatively low fuel costs, as the economy sputtered.

“What killed us  – everybody really – was the real estate downturn,”  said Michele Miller, executive director of the Marine Industry Association of Florida, one of the largest trade group of boating-related industries. “We are a luxury item and unless you’re a commercial fisherman, you don’t have to have a boat … When the economy is bad, they don’t spend money on new boats, or money on the boats they have.”

The economic impact of the boating industry in Florida was $18.4 billion in 2004. That number fell to $16.8 billion in 2008 and it is believed to have continued to decline as the Great Recession took hold in the ensuring years, Miller said.

More: Memorial Day Weekend brings ‘king’ tides

By the time the association undertook another exhaustive economic impact study last year, the figure was $15.3 billion for 2015, still almost 17 percent below the 2004 figure.

But nationally, the boating industry has been looking brighter. On Tuesday, the National Marine Manufacturers Association reported that the $36 billion U.S. boating industry is seeing some of its highest sales in nearly a decade, especially yachts. According to new NMMA data,  sales of new powerboats increased 6 percent in 2016, reaching 247,800 boats sold, and are expected to increase an additional six percent in 2017.

 

In Florida, sales of new powerboat, engine, trailer and accessories in 2016 were up 5 percent in Florida, to $2.5 billion, according to NMMA.

Demand continues to grow across nearly all powerboat segments, according to NMMA.

But in some areas of Florida, excess algae and regulations over the past decade have tempered the demand to go boating, captains say.

More: Showcasing those things ‘Made in Brevard’

In few places is the frustration among Florida boaters more pronounced than in Brevard County. Captains there boast 70 percent of the Indian River Lagoon within the realm of their helm. But apocalyptic algae blooms and dolphin, manatee and fish die-offs over the past seven years have curbed many-a-captain’s enthusiasm.

Brevard boaters also attribute the decline in registered boats to the advent of the manatee zones 15 years ago that they say increased the “hassle factor” of navigating local waters.

“You might go once or twice, but is that worth owning a boat to do that?” said Bob Atkins, a Merritt Island resident and president of Citizens for Florida’s Waterways, a Brevard-based boating advocacy group.

At the group’s peak — around the time the manatee zones went in — CFW included about 700 families, many joining because of anger over the new slow zones. Now it’s about 180 families, Atkins said. “People who have boats are probably taking them somewhere else,” he said. 

But registered vessels have declined statewide, too, dropping 9.3 percent to 931,450 last year, 92,445 fewer boats than when boats peaked at 1,027,043 vessels in 2007.

 

While Brevard’s population grew by 85,000 people (17 percent) since widespread manatee zones took effect 15 years ago, registered vessels dropped by about 6,000 boats, to 34,000 vessels, a 15 percent decrease.

The industry reacted accordingly. Miller notes the Space Coast chapter of the Marine Industry Association of Florida disbanded in 2008 when the economy turned. Despite a few feeble attempts, the local chapter hasn’t been re-established, she said.

“I tried to work with some groups there in 2011,” Miller said, “but nothing really happened with it.”

Registered vessels peaked at 40,573 in Brevard in 2006. Last year, there were 33,999 registered, up 268 from the previous year, but 16.2 lower than the 2006 peak.

Brevard boaters who challenged go-slow manatee zones warned in the early 2000s that people would give up boating if the zones went in. Most of the zones took effect 2002-2003,. Now, with so many slow zones, it takes too long to get anywhere, they say.

“The first hour and a half of your boat ride is slow-speed,” Atkins said of the trip Merritt Islanders must take through slow zones to reach popular water skiing spots. “That means for a ski run it takes three hours to get there and back,” he added. “People used to ski in front of their house … All you can do with that water is look at it.”

 

 

Bad algae blooms in Brevard over the past seven years took the wind out of many a sail.

“It’s definitely deteriorated since 2010,” Atkins said.

He also points to bad blue-green algae bloom last year in the St. Lucie area as another factor impacting enthusiasm for boating. “That pretty much killed boating completely when that was going on,” he said.

Contact Waymer at 321-242-3663 or jwaymer@floridatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @JWayEnviro or www.facebook.com/jim.waymer. Contact Price at 321-242-3658 or wprice@floridatoday.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @Fla2dayBiz

BREVARD

2016

Recreational vessels in Brevard: 32,731

Total vessels: 33,999
Reportable accidents: 27

Fatalities: 0

Injuries: 21

Property Damage Rank:$183,530

Accident rate: 1:1,259

2007

Recreational vessels: 38,863

Total vessels: 40,407
Reportable accidents: 23

Fatalities: 1

Injuries: 9

Property Damage Rank:$164,500

Accident rate: 1:1689

FLORIDA

2016

Recreational vessels: 899,235 
Total vessels: 931,450 

Reportable accidents: 714 
Fatalities: 67 
Injuries: 421 
Property damage: $10,052,495 
Accident rate: 1:1,305

2007

Recreational vessels: 991,680 
Total vessels: 1,027,043 
Reportable accidents: 668 
Fatalities: 77 
Injuries: 377 
Property damage: $9,125,110

Take a Florida Safe Boating Course: http://myfwc.com/boating/safety-education/courses/

According to the recently released FWC statistics, Monroe County topped boating accidents last year, with 105 accidents and three fatalities, followed by Miami-Dade with  67 accidents and seven fatalities, and Palm Beach with 62 accidents and three fatalities.

Brevard ranked eighth, with 27 accidents and no fatalities. 

Top 11 reportable boating accidents in 2016 (fatalities)

1. Monroe: 105 (3)
2. Miami-Dade: 67 (7)
3. Palm Beach: 62 (3)
4. Pinellas: 44 (2)
5. Lee: 39 (6)
6. Broward: 38 (1)
7. Collier: 31 (0)
8. Brevard: 27 (0)
9. Hillsborough: 20 (3)
10. Charlotte: 18 (4)
11. Duval: 18 (0)

 

Source: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission


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US Boat Sales Continue to Rise

According to new data from the 2016 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract, the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) reports that the $36 billion U.S. boating industry is seeing some of its highest sales in nearly a decade.

Unit sales of new powerboats increased six percent in 2016, reaching 247,800 boats sold, and are expected to increase an additional six percent in 2017 – a trajectory NMMA anticipates to continue through 2018.

“Economic factors, including an improving housing market, higher employment, strong consumer confidence, and growing disposable income, are creating a golden age for the country’s recreational boating industry,” notes Thom Dammrich, president of NMMA. “Summer is a busy selling season for our industry, and we expect steady growth to continue across most boat categories through 2017—and into 2018—to keep up with the acceleration in demand for new boats.”

Demand continues to grow across nearly all powerboat segments. Outboard boat sales, which represent 85 percent of new traditional powerboats sold, and include pontoons, aluminum and fiberglass fishing boats, as well as small fiberglass cruising boats, were up 6.1 percent in 2016 to 160,900 units.

Sales of new ski and wakeboard boats, used for popular watersports such as wakesurfing and wakeboarding, saw a double-digit increase, up 11.5 percent to 8,700 boats. New personal watercraft sales, often considered a gateway to boat ownership, rose 7.3 percent to 59,000 craft, and jet boats, smaller fiberglass boats that use jet engine technology to propel the boat, saw a sales increase of 8.7 percent to 5,000 boats.

Sales of yachts (33’ and higher) saw gains of 3.5 percent, reaching a seven-year high of 1,715 units in 2016.

“One of the standout areas of growth in 2016 was among yachts—a category that has been slower to rebound as high net worth individuals looked to remain more liquid post-recession,” notes Dammrich. “Additional trends driving economic growth for the industry include the creation of more affordable, versatile boats manufactured to appeal to a new generation of boaters, more intuitive marine technology making it easier to get on the water and operate a boat, and an emphasis on shared experiences with the introduction of more boat rental and shared boat ownership apps as well as boat clubs that offer access to boats as part of a membership fee.”

U.S. Recreational Boating by the Numbers (Source: NMMA’s 2016 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract)
• Annual U.S. sales of boats, marine products and services totaled $36 billion in 2016, an increase of 3.2 percent from 2015.
• There were approximately 247,800 new power boats sold in 2016, and increase of six percent from 2015.
• The recreational boating industry in the U.S. has an annual economic impact of more than $121.5 billion (includes direct, indirect and induced spending), supporting 650,000 direct and indirect American jobs and nearly 35,000 small businesses.
• Leading the nation in sales of new powerboat, engine, trailer and accessories in 2016 were the following states:
— Florida: $2.5 billion, up five percent from 2015
— Texas: $1.4 billion, up five percent from 2015
— Michigan: $868 million, up nine percent from 2015
— Minnesota: $710 million, up nine percent from 2015
— North Carolina: $689 million, up eleven percent from 2015
— New York: $688 million, up 14 percent from 2015
— Wisconsin: $622 million, up nine percent from 2015
— California: $615 million, up 15 percent from 2015
— Georgia: $551 million, up eleven percent from 2015
— South Carolina: $544 million, up ten percent from 2015
• It’s not just new boats Americans are buying; there were an estimated 981,600 pre-owned boats (powerboats, personal watercraft, and sailboats) sold in 2016, totaling $9.2 billion in sales, an increase of two percent from 2015.
• There are an estimated 12.1 million registered/documented boats in the U.S. in 2015.
• Ninety-five percent of boats on the water (powerboats, personal watercraft, and sailboats) in the U.S. are small in size, measuring less than 26 feet in length—boats that can be trailered by a vehicle to local waterways.
• Sailboat sales rebounded in 2016 with 6,500 sailboats sold, an increase in unit sales of 16.1 percent over 2015 driven by a 23.4 percent increase in the ‘20 ft. or less’ category.
• Boating is predominantly “middle-class” with 72 percent of boat owners having a household income less than $100,000.

NMMA will continue to release its 2016 Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract data by section throughout the summer. For more information, to access current Abstract sections,and pre-order the complete 2016 Abstract, visit www.NMMA.org’s new Statistics section.


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Connecticut boaters navigating past taxes — at a cost

http://www.thehour.com/business/article/Connecticut-boaters-navigating-past-taxes-at-11176226.php


Published 12:00 am, Sunday, May 28, 2017

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Heading into the Memorial Day weekend, the National Marine Manufacturers Association published new boat sales estimates that are the highest in a decade, including in New York, where sales of powerboats and accessories jumped 14 percent.

As for Connecticut? A lifeline some want to toss the industry may be fouled another year in Hartford.

As the General Assembly nears the conclusion of its legislative session, still under consideration is a bill that would cut in half sales taxes on boat purchases, which would drop the state’s tax below that of New York. The Assembly’s Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates the bill would cost Connecticut $2.5 million in state revenue annually, without indicating whether that figure includes the impact of increased sales that marine industry insiders predict would occur.


Connecticut boat sales has been on a prolonged ebb tide since the recession, with recreational boat registrations down 4.1 percent in 2015, according to the most recent state-level data published by the U.S. Coast Guard, which counted 95,500 registrations in Connecticut.

While the data showed declines for several Northeast states, none were as severe as Connecticut’s.

“In the last 10 years or so, we’ve seen a huge dropoff in the sales of boats (and) the importation of boats,” said state Sen. Scott Frantz, R-Greenwich, speaking in April in Hartford during deliberations on a bill that would cut boat taxes in Connecticut. “That’s a serious concern. My family’s background is in the shipyard marina business, as well, and we’ve seen that kind of go by the wayside here for the last 10 to 15 years … It’s not quite the place that it used to be.”

In the East, no state had a better rising tide in boat registrations than neighboring Rhode Island, with the Ocean State not charging sales or property taxes on boats. Last year, Rhode Island registrations jumped 10 percent.

“From what I understand in discussions with my colleague in Rhode Island, the leading state from which out-of-state residents are purchasing and registering their boats is … Connecticut,” said Kathleen Burns, executive director of the Connecticut Marine Trades Association, speaking at the Connecticut General Assembly hearing in April.

At Brewer Yacht Yards in Stamford, Stratford and several other Connecticut locales, the “vacancy rate” for available slips and moorings is about 15 percent, or sufficient for 435 vessels, according to Douglas Domenie, regional vice president.

“Unlike any other period I’ve seen, Connecticut residents and other boat owners are … not getting out of boating — they are simply moving out to our neighboring states,” Domenie said. “Our Massachusetts marinas are running close to 100 percent occupancy, while occupancy at Rhode Island marinas have improved dramatically. This contrasts greatly with what we see in Connecticut.”

The trend is happening despite hurdles put in place by Connecticut to make it more difficult for people who attempt to purchase and register boats elsewhere but use them in Connecticut waters, according to Don MacKenzie, president of Boats Inc. in Niantic, a relatively short distance from Rhode Island. He added he has dispatched “secret shoppers” to find out how the system is working these days.

“The hoops (put) in place by both Rhode Island and Connecticut were very difficult in allowing a Connecticut resident to make such a purchase in Rhode Island, avoid the sales tax and return to (Connecticut) with the boat,” MacKenzie stated. “Today, they have come up with many ways … (to) purchase a boat in Rhode Island, pay zero sales tax, and in time return to our state unscathed.”

Troy Bush, a salesman with Petzold’s Marine Center, which has locations at Norwalk Cove Marina and in Rhode Island, said a similar dynamic is at play with New York. He recalled a case last summer at Norwalk Cove Marina in which a customer weighing a Saber sailing yacht ended up buying the boat across the border, saving $34,000 on the sales tax.

If the ‘1 percent’ are navigating successfully around Connecticut’s tax, Bush said it is not just the yachting crowd that is fed up.

“The average boat sold here is somewhere around 20 feet and $60,000 or so — it’s a lot of blue-collar guys or families that work really hard (and) they want to go out and fish with their family afterwards or whatever it may be,” he said. “The same people … are driving five miles to go get fuel somewhere and save two cents a gallon. In these times, everyone is trying to save a buck.”

— Includes prior reporting by John Nickerson.

Alex.Soule@scni.com; 203-964-2236; www.twitter.com/casoulman


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Mixed-use plans for Dorchester boat site

A Hub real estate investment company is hoping to transform a waterfront section of Dorchester’s Port Norfolk peninsula into a mixed-used development with approximately 150 residential units, a 25-room hotel, retail and parking.

South Boston-based City Point Capital wants to demolish the MarineMax/Russo Boston site for the seven-building, 330,000-square-foot Neponset Wharf project on the Neponset River, according to a letter of intent filed yesterday with the Boston Planning Development Agency.

Existing marina uses and boat slips would be maintained and renovated, and augmented with new over-water structures and on-land boat storage. Approximately 195 parking spaces would serve residents of the development and support public access to new open space and waterfront programs, including a boathouse, according to City Point’s letter.

The MarineMax/Russo Boston buildings slated to be razed include about 71,300 square feet of boat storage, sales and service facilities.

“The proposed project will significantly improve an underutilized waterfront property on Boston’s Neponset River,” City Point principal Ryan Sillery wrote in the BPDA letter.

It would improve existing marine uses at the site and introduce new waterfront uses, including possible water transportation links, according to Sillery. It would also enhance public access to the Neponset River, provide public amenities including programmed open spaces, and provide a harborwalk and possible pedestrian link to nearby Tenean Beach, his letter stated.

Sillery could not be reached for comment yesterday.

City Point met informally with the Port Norfolk Civic Association on May 16 to discuss the project. A public meeting has been scheduled for June 3 at Boston Winery in Dorchester.

“I asked them to set up a meeting to solicit the opinions and ideas of everyone in the neighborhood, whether they come to the meetings or not, because a project of this scale will have a significant impact on the neighborhood,” association president John Lyons said.

Concerns include traffic, water and sewer capacity, density, height and compliance with the state’s Chapter 91 regulations designed to protect and promote public use of the waterfront, according to Lyons.

“It’s very premature to really say anything other than that it will be a long process,” he said, “and I think everyone in the community should participate in the discussion.”


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