The United States is the undisputed heavyweight champion of boating market share, with annual sales of boats, services and products coming in at just over $42 billion the last time the numbers were tallied, in 2019. We have certainly left those numbers in our wake, as the desire for new boats during the past 24 months is showing no signs of abating.
Following 2020’s record sales, which were the best in more than 13 years, boatbuilders and dealers in 2021 were expected to again eclipse the high-water marks.
However, a cavalcade of bad actors marched right into early 2021, hell-bent on slowing the industry’s momentum: continued surges of Covid-19; a sudden dearth of shipping containers; a crippling winter storm in Texas; and the 1,312-foot container ship Ever Given jamming the Suez Canal. All of these factors combined to cause a global shipping bottleneck. The domino effect was felt in boatbuilding facilities across the country.
Boat-registration numbers kept pace for a while but began to tail off last summer. Even so, demand never subsided, and as manufacturers picked up the pace — adding additional shifts and workers, and expanding facilities on the fly — the U.S. government took action to help alleviate the supply-chain crunch.
Areas of relief emerged, and it looked certain that the final tally of 2021 boat sales would eclipse the 300,000 mark, an annual pace being achieved for the second time in 15 years. It’s a mammoth achievement considering what the industry has been up against.
“U.S. marine manufacturing, which provides an estimated 691,000 jobs across the country, is standing out as an example of economic resilience,” National Marine Manufacturers Association president Frank Hugelmeyer says. “The pandemic created shifts in how Americans prioritize their time, and boating is an activity they’re doing with family and friends to escape from stresses on land, all while creating fun and adventure.”
With great hope and some luck regarding supply-chain constraints and the pandemic, the NMMA — and its partners at Informa Markets and the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas — are primed to keep the industry on an upward trajectory with the reimagined Miami International Boat Show, slated to be the largest yacht event in the world.
The show, scheduled for Feb. 16-20, will incorporate four in-water locations, as well as the Miami Convention Center and a series of new elements. For details about everything you can expect to see at the Miami show, read Hugelmeyer’s guest column “Eager Anticipation” on Page 14.
This issue also features overseas manufacturers that continue to gain market share both stateside and abroad. I spoke with Çağın Genç, CEO of Turkey-based Sirena Marine, about the company’s humble beginnings as a contract builder for Azimut. Today, Sirena is a powerhouse of innovative design. We also catch up with Aquila Power Catamarans, which continues to produce new products and enter new boating categories, most recently with the 28 Molokai series. And we take a look at SeaPen, a simple but ingenious portable dock system from Down Under.
There’s change of a good kind in the forecast for Soundings Trade Only, too. With the close of this issue, my run as editor-in-chief comes to an end. I’ll be occupying the editor-in-chief chair at our sister publication Passagemaker. I have had the privilege of working alongside a team of great folks at Trade, including our fearless publisher Michele Goldsmith, talented art director Steve Jylkka, deputy editor Michael LaBella, staff editor Joe Healy and copy editor Kim Kavin. A sincere thanks to all of you for helping to up our game during the past two years.
Gary Reich, who most recently split his duties at sister titles by serving as as managing editor of Anglers Journal and senior editor of Soundings, will be taking over as editor-in-chief. He is one of the saltiest people I have the pleasure of knowing, with a resumé as interesting as he is. He’s done stints as a rigger at a full-service chandlery and run wholesale units for marine retailers, was a service manager on the dealer side and wrote freelance copy for Waterway Guides before coming to Active Interest Media five years ago.
I wish Gary and the team the best of luck. And I’m sure I’ll see many of you out there on the boat show circuit. So it’s not quite goodbye. I’ll just say, fare thee well.
This article was originally published in the February 2022 issue.