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The ability to innovate is a key component of any successful marine business. Companies with industry-leading innovations not only make life better for boaters, but also inspire other companies to advance in all kinds of areas. Innovation is, in a word, motion. It propels the entire marine segment forward. And, innovation comes in all kinds of forms. It can involve using the Internet of Things to make boats better connected, and therefore easier to use. It can focus on stabilization to ensure a smoother ride across the water for everybody on board. It can create safer processes on the factory floor coming out of a pandemic, when worker health and safety is top of mind. It can help with electrification and the big-picture transition to more eco-friendly boats. Innovation has no limits, which is why it’s so hard to choose winners for the Soundings Trade Only Top 10 Most Innovative Marine Companies Awards program. Now in its fifth year, this program honors forward-thinking companies that are transforming the future of the marine industry through new initiatives, technologies, processes and more. Quite a few marine-industry companies fit that description, but only a handful are truly leading the pack. This year’s judges, who determined the winners and honorable mentions, were Carl Blackwell, former chief marketing officer of the National Marine Manufacturers Association; John Rothermel, former vice president of sales at Fisheries Supply, and former chairman of the National Marine Distributors Association board of directors; Bill Sisson, AIM Marine Group editor-at-large; and Gary Reich, Soundings Trade Only editor-in-chief. Michele Goldsmith, Soundings Trade Only publisher, served as an advisor. Here’s a look at why our judges decided these companies deserve top recognition in the area of innovation — along with some of the advancements the companies are making in ways that could spark real change industry-wide.

Brunswick Corp.

David Foulkes 

David Foulkes 

Alexandra Cattelan

Alexandra Cattelan

Brunswick Corp. repeats as the most innovative company because it continues to broaden its range of offerings across the recreational boating industry. In July, the Mettawa, Ill.-based corporation announced its first-ever quarter with $300 million of adjusted operating earnings without a new high-horsepower model from subsidiaries Mercury Marine or Mercury Racing. The company did unveil 25- and 30-hp Mercury outboards with electric starting and SmartCraft digital technologies, but it was accomplishments in other areas that put Brunswick over the top.

“We have made tremendous strides advancing every aspect of the Next Wave strategy that builds on our foundation as the largest and most innovative company in the marine industry,” said Brunswick CEO David Foulkes. “Our Next Wave strategy is about combining our foundational strengths of scale, strong brands and innovation with investments in our core business, our ACES strategy, and our advancing digital capabilities to create the smartest, most desirable and engaging experiences on the water.”

In May, Mercury expanded the Brunswick ACES (Autonomy, Connectivity, Electrification and Shared access) strategy by establishing an eSolutions division. This new arm focuses on driving Mercury’s electrification business, including product roadmaps, service, integration and go-to-market strategies.

Other highlights from 2022 include Boston Whaler introducing the 280 Dauntless and the company’s Freedom Boat Club growing into the United Kingdom. Boateka, Brunswick’s certified pre-owned business, opened an integrated refurbishment and sales center.

“Brunswick’s real-time access to a broad set of marine and recreation enthusiasts breathes life into our innovation strategy, informing our designs, our technology advancements and our new business models in a way that would be very difficult for others to replicate,” Foulkes said.

Brunswick’s Freedom Boat Club operation continues to make boating more accessible

Brunswick’s Freedom Boat Club operation continues to make boating more accessible

A Boston Whaler remote-monitoring app

A Boston Whaler remote-monitoring app

With 18,500 employees, Brunswick was named to Forbes’ list of America’s Best Large Employers in February. The company also continued its commitment to diversity and inclusion: In March, Jennifer Koenig was named Brunswick’s first chief sustainability officer, and Alexandra Cattelan was announced as chief technology officer. In May, Sea Ray launched the SLX 260, the first Sea Ray created by an all-women design team.

Continuing to push Brunswick’s sustainability initiatives in July, Mercury partnered with Alliant Energy to build a 5-megawatt, 32-acre solar array in eastern Wisconsin. (Mercury and Brunswick share a goal to derive 50 percent of their electrical usage from renewable sources by the end of 2030.) A similar array of photovoltaic panels will be installed at Brunswick’s facility in Vila Nova de Cerveira, Portugal, to generate about 40 percent of the location’s electrical needs.

Brunswick also launched All Blue Planet, a global initiative focused on inspiring communities to pursue the restorative power of water, in June 2022. The corporation is further partnering with Boys & Girls Clubs, the Chicago Maritime Arts Center, Catch Co. and Active Disabled Americans to provide increased access to the water.

“We have all the tools to bring to life these distinctive new products and experiences in an accessible, intuitive way through our ability to deliver fully integrated, compatible and holistic technical solutions to customers and end consumers,” Foulkes said. “This ability to access and act on unique consumer insights has been increasingly recognized over the last few years.”

Navico Group’s Fathom e-Power system

Navico Group’s Fathom e-Power system

Correct Craft

A company often reflects the beliefs and personality of its leader, and that is evident at Correct Craft, manufacturer of some of the best-known wakesports boats in the world. Bill Yeargin, president and CEO of the 97-year-old company, champions the “Making Life Better” mantra daily at the Orlando, Fla.-based company. The organization’s three pillars are people, performance and philanthropy. Yeargin is also a frequent contributor to Soundings Trade Only.

The Ingenity all-electric 23E dayboat

The Ingenity all-electric 23E dayboat

Correct Craft established a commitment to taking care of its employees early on. “Supporting our employees physically, spiritually and financially is a priority at Correct Craft,” the company says in its mission statement. At the end of 2021, more than 95 percent of employees received sizable bonuses. The company says it “discourages silent liars” and encourages all personnel to speak up when they see opportunities for improvement. More than 2,000 employees provided feedback on the company culture. There were also 20 culture leadership meetings, more than 100 one-on-one sessions and 14 analyzed company reports.

The Making Life Better initiative carries over to Correct Craft’s 15 locations across the United States. Each one echoes the parent company’s strong emphasis on service. In addition to caring for local communities, the Correct Craft team has traveled to Cambodia, India, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and other locations with Word of Life Ministries.

A training class at the builder’s headquarter’s

A training class at the builder’s headquarter’s

Additionally, subsidiaries Centurion and Supreme Boats towed more than 200 veterans and first responders in more than nine states as part of the two companies’ Salute to Service and Operation Wake Surf projects.

On the technological front, Sean Marrero is at the helm of Correct Craft’s Ingenity team that built the industry’s first zero-emissions day boat, the 23E. It won an NMMA Innovation Award at the 2022 Miami International Boat Show. Its patent-pending modular “skateboard” design offers flexibility for development of future products. Standard onboard telematics have been introduced to Ingenity, Nautique and Centurion boats; this technology brings remote charging and location monitoring via a smartphone, and enables over-the-air updates. A Nautique boat owner this year tracked down his stolen boat using the telematics GPS tracking feature.

Correct Craft’s Watershed division and Merritt Precision have added 3D printing to their processes. The goal is to evaluate ways to integrate 3D printing into rapid prototyping, build processes and manufacturing. An example is 3D-printed foam molds for upholstery.

CEO Bill Yeargin volunteers his time at several charities

CEO Bill Yeargin volunteers his time at several charities

And, Correct Craft is pursuing the digital frontier, creating a new business entity with the goal of designing a virtual reality where marine enthusiasts, potential buyers and investors can experience recreational boating.

Finally, to better understand its carbon footprint, Correct Craft hired an arborist to study the company headquarters to determine the type of trees that thrive in the local environment. The company is committed to being carbon neutral by 2025.

Garmin

When it comes to making boating and fishing easy, Garmin wants boaters and anglers to simply ask a question. Its GPSMAP chartplotter Voice Control is a free upgrade for its multifunction displays. Similar to Alexa or Siri, Garmin Voice Control pairs the user’s wireless headset or speaker with a voice control USB module. An angler says, “OK, Garmin, what is the depth?” The machine responds with “The depth is 48 feet.” Voice Control can also be used to change pages on a multifunction display, check fluid levels and more. From a safety standpoint, Garmin Voice Control is hands-free, so the operator can focus on driving the boat.

Garmin’s Surround View Camera System provides live, bird’s-eye view video monitoring for 360-degree visibility from the helm. 

Garmin’s Surround View Camera System provides live, bird’s-eye view video monitoring for 360-degree visibility from the helm. 

Speaking of driving the boat, Garmin’s Surround View Camera System provides live, bird’s-eye view video monitoring for 360-degree visibility around the boat from the helm. It uses six through-hull cameras that let a captain quickly view the boat’s perimeter during low-speed maneuvers. Distance markers and visual fenders can be set to alert the captain when the boat is close to an object.

Garmin’s LiveScope technology has evolved with improvements to screen clarity, transducer sensitivity and target separation in LiveScope Plus. A user can even see a fishing line on the screen. LiveScope XR is a new transducer with extended range that delivers real-time images of fish and structures up to 500 feet in front of or below the boat.

The company also developed Boat Switch, an all-in-one digital switching system that operates with the company’s ECHOMAP and GPSMAP series chartplotters. It’s powered by EmpirBus and replaces conventional fuse boxes and switches. A boater can digitally manage up to 20 circuits using a Garmin chartplotter.

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Since last August, Garmin has launched more than 40 new or expanded product families with a total of more than 100 new products.The company’s marine business segment includes brands such as Fusion Entertainment, Navionics, EmpirBus and, since the start of this year, Vesper Marine, a provider of marine communication equipment.

At its Olathe, Kans., headquarters and facilities around the world, Garmin’s culture is one “where ideas are big and egos are small.” The company creates a work environment that encourages employees to pursue their passions. Running paths around the headquarters are occupied at lunchtime, and many workers take to local lakes to fish after work. Garmin hired 350 interns in the United States in 2022 and has a turnover rate of about 9 percent.

With more than 19,000 employees in 34 countries, Garmin has seven employee resource groups. The company encourages its employees to give back to local communities. In 2022, Garmin created a positive impact program at its U.S. offices. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a paid holiday, and employees are encouraged to serve local communities at homeless shelters, food banks and education centers for under-served populations. The company matched all employee donations in its annual United Way campaign, surpassing $2 million. In the marine industry, the company supports the Center for Sportfishing Policy, the Student Angler Federation, Collegiate Bass Fishing and others.

Seakeeper

Fourteen years after it revolutionized the recreational boating industry with its gyroscope-driven stabilizers, Seakeeper is at it again with Seakeeper Ride, a vessel attitude-control system. Borrowing from the aerospace industry, the company partnered with three boat manufacturers — Chris-Craft, Scout and Sportsman — to develop the system, which was introduced in August.

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Because more than 90 percent of the monohull powerboat market consists of boats shorter than 30 feet, Seakeeper felt that new boaters were being overwhelmed by trimming engines and tabs, and running multifunction displays. The company’s research showed that boaters were becoming fed up with the multitasking and would leave boating in less than 10 years.

Seakeeper Ride is inspired by aerospace technology that controls pitch, roll and yaw. The company says it eliminates up to 70 percent of pitch and roll when a boat is underway. The heart of the system is motion-detecting sensors that activate rotary blades positioned on a boat’s transom, similar to a pair of trim tabs. Seakeeper says the sensors take 1,000 measurements to make 100 adjustments to the boat’s attitude every second. The system provides automatic list control by adjusting weight distribution, and has automatic trim. During hard acceleration, the driver never loses the horizon, and efficiency is enhanced because optimum trim is always achieved.

The Seakeeper Ride system utilizes rotary blades that make 100 adjustments every second to eliminate up to 70 percent of pitch and roll when a boat is underway.

The Seakeeper Ride system utilizes rotary blades that make 100 adjustments every second to eliminate up to 70 percent of pitch and roll when a boat is underway.

Seakeeper Ride also eliminates the need for a control panel because it’s automatic. As soon as the boat is powered up, the system is on and immediately starts working. If an experienced boater wants to make adjustments, he or she can tap the multifunction display screen to switch the system into manual mode.

The company offers the Seakeeper Ride in three sizes. For boats up to 26 feet long, the Seakeeper Ride 450 has two 450-mm (18-inch) blades and a retail price of $4,500. The Seakeeper Ride 525 has 525 mm (21-inch) blades for boats between 27 and 30 feet length overall. It retails for $7,500. For boats from 31 to 35 feet, there’s the Seakeeper Ride 600 with 600 mm (24-inch) blades for $10,500.

Seakeeper Ride will be standard on 15 of the 2023 models from Sportsman, Chris-Craft and Scout. Seakeeper says 20 additional builders have made inquiries since the system was introduced.

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Overall, the company has introduced 17 gyroscopic stabilizers for boats from 27 feet to 90 feet, and has sold more than 18,000 units. Seakeeper has reported year-over-year growth of 31 percent since inception, created more than 1,000 jobs, and built a global support network with more than 230 dealers.

Volvo Penta

Volvo Penta moved even more toward electric propulsion in 2022 with its “Pursuit of Beyond” initiative. The Swedish company developed hybrid-electric projects, including a tourism vessel that takes guests on arctic excursions. The press event for the launch resulted in 143 articles with a global reach of 1.2 billion people.

Volvo Penta collaborated with Marell Boats and ecotourism company Hurtigruten Svalbard to produce a hybrid-electric propulsion system

Volvo Penta collaborated with Marell Boats and ecotourism company Hurtigruten Svalbard to produce a hybrid-electric propulsion system

In another commercial project, one with a more holistic approach to renewable energy generation, Volvo Penta worked with Danfoss Editron to develop a hybrid-electric crew-transport vessel for offshore wind power stations. The vessel has integrated, electrically powered Volvo Penta IPS pod propulsion with gensets and advanced vessel-management systems.

In the recreational boating segment, Volvo Penta continued to collaborate with boatbuilders on electrification initiatives.

Volvo Penta’s expansion into the superyacht category resulted in the Amer 120 becoming the largest superyacht to be powered by IPS pod drives. The yacht has quad D13-IPS1350s that reportedly push it to a maximum speed of 26 knots. In 2022, Volvo Penta also rolled out an upgrade to its award-winning Assisted Docking system, expanding the technology to existing yacht owners.

Maintaining its commitment to reduce emissions, Volvo Penta introduced an IMO Tier III package for superyachts that focuses on fuel efficiency and compact size for IPS and traditional inboard installations. Volvo Penta also uses hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) in all its demo and test boats. In a typical year, the company’s test center in Krossholmen, Sweden, spends more than 5,000 hours testing boats and engines, covering around 40,000 nautical miles. In the past, the boats consumed more than 30,640 gallons of fuel. When the company switched to HVO in 2021, carbon-dioxide emissions were believed to be reduced by as much as 90 percent.

Volvo’s Assisted Docking System can now be retrofitted to certain older vessels.

Volvo’s Assisted Docking System can now be retrofitted to certain older vessels.

Looking toward the future, parent company Volvo Group is targeting net-zero value chain emissions by 2050 at the latest. The corporation’s pathway to reach the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement has been validated by the Science Based Targets initiative. Volvo Penta is developing specific action plans for its part of the initiative. Being part of the Volvo Group lets Volvo Penta embrace an entrepreneurial spirit like a smaller company, while drawing on the research and design resources of a multinational transportation technology leader. There are more than 9,900 employees, including 4,500 engineers, involved in research and development at Volvo Group’s Gothenburg, Sweden, headquarters. Volvo Penta’s electric propulsion lab is closely aligned with the Volvo Group’s electromobility development team.

“We aim to lead the marine industry into an era of sustainable propulsion so we can help protect the health of oceans and other waters,” Volvo Penta asserts. “All of our innovations have that goal in mind.”

Yamaha

Yamaha was an early supporter of conservation efforts, having spearheaded fisheries allocation measures for decades. Its 2019 launch of Yamaha Rightwaters, a global sustainability sub-brand designed to generate measurable results, took the engine manufacturer’s reach to a new level.

Yamaha’s Rightwaters program worked with CCA and the Harte Research Institute to evaluate the role of oyster reefs in carbon sequestration

Yamaha’s Rightwaters program worked with CCA and the Harte Research Institute to evaluate the role of oyster reefs in carbon sequestration

Yamaha Rightwaters focuses on creating and maintaining a clean marine environment; managing the threat from invasive species; restoring and creating marine habitats; and supporting academic marine research.

Conservation is the responsibility of everyone involved in the marine industry, from individuals to corporations, says Martin Peters, Yamaha’s U.S. Marine Business Unit External Affairs division manager, who has helped spearhead the initiative.

“Through Yamaha Rightwaters, we have the ability to take a broader approach by developing and supporting a variety of programs that address scientific research, clean water efforts, habitat restoration and invasive species management,” Peters says.

In August 2021, Yamaha Rightwaters created a pilot program to test the feasibility of recycling the sheet plastic covers used to protect Yamaha’s boats and engines during shipping. Since then, boatbuilders and dealers have returned almost 20,000 pounds of sheet plastic, which was in turn processed into base materials by affiliate Nexus Circular.

In May, Yamaha Rightwaters joined BP and Royal Dutch Shell as investors in a two-year oyster reef study with the Coastal Conservation Association and the Harte Research Institute, which is part of Texas A&M University. The carbon sequestration validation project is designed to evaluate the role of oyster reefs in capturing and storing carbon in St. Charles Bay off the coast of Texas. The program has potential to scale to a larger scope.

The company worked with boatbuilders and dealers last year to recycle more than 20,000 pounds of sheet plastic packaging.

The company worked with boatbuilders and dealers last year to recycle more than 20,000 pounds of sheet plastic packaging.

“By reducing carbon dioxide through projects like this, we can reduce ocean acidification,” says John O’Keefe, senior government relations specialist with Yamaha’s U.S. Marine Business Unit.

In May, 25 volunteers met at Goose Island State Park in Texas to place around 3,500 pounds of recycled oyster shells back into the bay, to help restore degraded oyster habitats. The Harte Research Institute is studying the effectiveness of recycling oyster shells to rebuild or reestablish oyster reefs.

Yamaha Rightwaters also recently partnered with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership on a report about aquatic invasive species to present on Capitol Hill, and is working with CCA Maryland on an initiative that is part fishing tournament, part citizen science project. The project aims to generate invasive species data for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We’re grateful for the recognition and look forward to expanding the Yamaha Rightwaters initiative to ensure healthy waterways and fisheries for future generations to enjoy,” Peters says.

ElectroSea

Innovators develop products that improve something, make it easier to use, or eliminate the use of toxic or dangerous materials. ElectroSea’s new ElectroStrainer System does all of these things because it eliminates corrosion and discourages marine browth in a sea strainer and the plumbing connected to it.

The ElectroStrainer system creates an environment where barnacles, biofilm and marine growth cannot live. 

The ElectroStrainer system creates an environment where barnacles, biofilm and marine growth cannot live. 

ElectroSea has fewer than 25 employees and only a four-year history in the marine industry, but its mission is ambitious: “To serve as the experts in marine-growth prevention systems by providing products with innovative design, superior quality and highest value that improve our customer’s time on the water.”

The company uses the PR/FAQ process introduced at Amazon and described by authors Colin Bryar and Bill Carr in the book Working Backwards, which explores Amazon’s operations. ElectroSea uses a rapid iteration process and engineers customer feedback into what it calls a “fast flywheel” development process. “Customer inputs enter the flywheel, and then new and improved products and services are generated,” according to the company.

ElectroSea-strainer

That process led to the development of the ElectroStrainer system, which creates an environment where barnacles, biofilm and marine growth cannot live. When seawater enters the boat, it passes through a series of electrified titanium plates coated with a rare- earth metal oxide catalyst. The ensuing reaction generates a safe, effective level of chlorine that the company says is about the same amount found in tap water. Pipes remain free of marine growth, and strainers stay cleaner longer so the need for using acid descale is eliminated.

ElectroStrainer is also the first biofouling prevention system with integrated straining of raw water, replacing a conventional strainer. It prevents biofouling from the strainer basket through all raw-water lines, and combines three components: a biofouling device, a hydrodynamic strainer and an advanced monitoring system.

Instead of squinting to look through a dirty sight glass or having to remove a bunch of wing nuts that could fall into a bilge, boaters can view ElectroStrainer’s digital display. It alerts the owner when the internal strainer basket needs to be checked, and shows how much seawater is passing through the system in real-time. It also shows when it’s generating chlorine, and requires no scheduled maintenance.

ElectroSea has more than 11 million run hours on myriad sizes and types of vessels. Its products have been installed on more than 65 brands of boats around the world.

Suzuki Marine USA

Suzuki Marine is combining technology and sustainability by making its microplastics filter standard equipment on its 115- and 140-hp outboards, two of its best-selling engines.

Suzuki’s Clean Ocean Project is committed to beach and coastal cleanup efforts

Suzuki’s Clean Ocean Project is committed to beach and coastal cleanup efforts

During the past year, Suzuki has tested, evaluated and improved the device to help address what Suzuki says is one of the toughest environmental issues facing the oceans and planet: microplastics contamination. The company had planned to announce the new development at the 2022 International BoatBuilders’ Exhibition & Conference, which was canceled because of Hurricane Ian.

“Suzuki takes sustainability and protecting our planet’s oceans seriously, and now it makes it easy for Suzuki outboard owners around the world to take a proactive role in removing this pollution from our waters,” says Suzuki sales and marketing manager Brandon Cerka.

The device, which Suzuki says is the first of its kind, is designed so the filter can be easily cleaned and reused. It also has a built-in bypass to prevent a clogged filter from hurting engine performance or overheating.

The company’s microplastics filter is standard on its 115- and 140-hp outboards. 

The company’s microplastics filter is standard on its 115- and 140-hp outboards. 

Suzuki Marine also expanded its efforts this past year to reduce the use of plastics in its own packaging and shipping. That effort has eliminated more than 2.3 tons of plastic waste annually thus far, and the company plans to continue, Cerka says.

Overall, Suzuki’s Clean Ocean Project commitments are expected to include yet more beach and coastal cleanup efforts, and to get dealers involved with recycling and reducing waste.

Following the philosophy san gen shugi — getting out to see and learn from customers — Suzuki has won nine NMMA awards over the years.

Dometic

Dometic has a company-wide mantra that summarizes its culture of innovation: “We are passionate. We act responsibly. We are building together. And we embrace change.”

Laurie Louvier 

Laurie Louvier 

With almost 80 years in the marine industry, Dometic operates 28 manufacturing and assembling sites in 11 countries. Several of its 7,200 employees around the world have worked for the company between three and four decades.

It also works to recruit new talent between Dometic Vancouver and the University of British Columbia, bringing in 40 to 50 students a year to gain hands-on experience at its facility in exchange for a salary — lower than full-time employees, but still significant, making the program inclusive for students who can’t afford unpaid internships.

“These mentorship efforts are vital to our ability to find and keep some of the best talent in the business,” says Dometic Vancouver vice president and general manager Brian Dudra, adding that roughly one-third of the location’s full-time hires have come through a university mentorship program.

Marketing vice president Laurie Louvier participated as a panelist during Soundings Trade Only’s Mentorship for Women program.

Dometic’s Marine Digital Integration system

Dometic’s Marine Digital Integration system

The company introduced more than a dozen new products and technologies between August 2021 and August 2022 to make boatbuilding and rigging more efficient. The Dometic Marine Digital Integration provides a boat-in-a-box solution for builders to outsource electrical design and compliance with American Boat & Yacht Council standards. Products like Optimus Electric Steering, joystick control, and new trim tabs are designed to take the guesswork and stress out of boating by creating a more automobile-like user experience.

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“This is more important than ever given the number of new people who have entered the boating lifestyle over recent years,” Louvier says.

Optimus Electric Power Steering (right) ties together electric steering with wake shapers, trim tabs and other N2K devices for vessel and ride control.

OneWater Marine

Anyone who’s ever worked with a clunky, obsolete customer relationship management system can attest to how annoying they can be, and can probably point to some lost sales as a result.

OneWater Marine decided to build its own. This year, it formed a separate company called Revver Digital LLC to focus on software development.

BoatsForSale.com is a digital marketplace that’s in beta testing with several dealers. 

BoatsForSale.com is a digital marketplace that’s in beta testing with several dealers. 

“Ultimately, we made the decision to spin off Revver Digital as a provider of software solutions developed specifically for marine dealerships,” says OneWater chief technology officer David Witty.

Revver Digital has created a suite of marine software solutions, including CRM, trade evaluation, inventory and quoting tools. It also launched BoatsforSale.com, a digital platform for consumers that’s in beta testing with several non-OneWater dealers. The website is designed to cut “pay-to-play” online marketplaces, get rid of competing ad clutter, and cut marketing costs while making it easier and more efficient to upload inventory and get more qualified leads.

Most CRMs were originally B2B tools, and are needlessly complicated with low adoption, Witty says. “Dealers in this industry have been using legacy, outdated technology. The marine industry is historically underserved when it comes to technology.”

OneWater has 95 locations. The technology has been a foundation of the company’s growth, Witty adds. This summer, the company reported a 41 percent spike in third-quarter revenue, and a 12 percent increase in same-store sales amid supply-chain disruptions that caused widespread boat shortages.

Boatyard

Clearwater, Fla.-based Boatyard was formed by industry veterans seven years ago to build relationships between boaters and the marine businesses that serve them. The technology platform seeks to integrate four key values: trust and transparency, personalization, ease of use and surprise and delight. The platform was designed to help marine service businesses meet evolving consumer demands and expectations, according to director of Business Development Katy Fairman.

Boatyard’s platform was designed to help marine service businesses meet evolving consumer demands and expectations. 

Boatyard’s platform was designed to help marine service businesses meet evolving consumer demands and expectations. 

“In a recent survey of 850 boat owners, we found that 75 percent of respondents do not stay with their original dealer for service after the sale or warranty period,” Fairman says.

Boatyard’s clients include MarineMax, Elite Yacht Services and Lauderdale Marine Center. The platform has processed more than 73,000 service orders and more than $90 million in service revenue.

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Boatyard says its platform saved an average of 10 minutes per service order, meaning that Boatyard has eliminated more than 12,000, or nearly 6 years, of unnecessary administrative work for clients.

“Our largest customer experienced a 38 percent reduction in chargebacks, a 439 percent increase in online service booking, and a reduction in average invoice payment times to just four days,” Fairman says.

In the past year, Boatyard has launched several new features. Its web app is a booking tool for requesting service from a boat owner’s preferred dealer, marina or marine business. Its B2B mobile app, Boatyard Pro, provides field service management and customer communication tools while in transit. Boatyard’s automated service reminders, launched in June, is a configurable service reminder tool for notifying customers automatically via SMS and email when it’s time for their next service.

The company also rolled out its last contact feature in August to help service departments. The feature can have as many as 120 open work orders at any given time in busy season at large dealerships.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by [Soundings Trade Only] for Boatyard’s efforts to drive innovation with our first-of-its-kind marine customer experience platform,” says Boatyard president Nathan Heber. “We would like to share this award with the boat dealers, marinas and marine businesses who have joined us on our journey to deliver best-in-class customer experiences and who make all our hard work worthwhile.”

Honorable Mentions

Roswell Marine

Innovation is at the core of Roswell’s mission, with founder and CEO Robert Oswell beginning to innovate in an Alberta, Canada, garage as a child.

Roswell founder and CEO Robert Oswell

Roswell founder and CEO Robert Oswell

Growing up as an avid wakeboarder, Oswell noticed that the no-stretch ropes experts favored in the ’90s were not ideal for average skiers, and in fact could contribute to injuries like dislocated shoulders. At age 19, he developed a shock-absorbing wakeboard pylon that provided cushion to help wakeboarders enjoy the sport in greater comfort and safety.

“Roswell began as a mission to change the way we look at design and answer, ‘Yes,’ to exploring new ideas that take us on a journey to discover how far we can take every experience,” Oswell says. “While navigating uncharted territory is never easy, it’s part of who we are, and the result is always worth it.”

Roswell’s shock mitigation seats are made with 3D-printed components

Roswell’s shock mitigation seats are made with 3D-printed components

He’s not an engineer, but Oswell has a unique ability to visualize solutions to problems, and has surrounded himself with engineers who help him realize his visions. The firm now has 28 patents.

“Over 24 years, Roswell has sold over $200 million in racks, towers, audio components and accessories,” Oswell says.

The company’s telescoping helm station on an Invincible Boats center console

The company’s telescoping helm station on an Invincible Boats center console

In February, the company partnered with Invincible Boats to introduce a telescoping helm station that works in concert with a helm seat that also rises to give the skipper better visibility over the bow of ever-larger center consoles.

“Consumers are willing to pay for the technology,” Oswell says. “This increased Roswell’s revenue 61 percent in 2021 and is on target for more than 35 percent in 2022, primarily from this new technology.”

Roswell manufacturers many components engineered specifically for the watersports industry 

Roswell manufacturers many components engineered specifically for the watersports industry 

Roswell’s 34 percent average revenue growth during the past four years can be completely chalked up to innovation, he says. As of April, Roswell had 400 employees worldwide, with 120 of them based in Florida and plans to hire 50 more there.

Si-Tex Marine Electronics

Shipping snarls dating back to former President Trump’s trade war that were exacerbated by the pandemic didn’t ease last year, so SI-TEX looked critically at shipping logistics.

SI-TEX was able to innovate with products such as its Octopus autopilot drives and radar touchscreen displays during the supply-chain crisis because it was able to creatively source parts and components.

SI-TEX was able to innovate with products such as its Octopus autopilot drives and radar touchscreen displays during the supply-chain crisis because it was able to creatively source parts and components.

“When the Covid-19 lockdown hit and then the supply-chain problems became almost unimaginable, we immediately realized that we needed to start researching alternatives and working on ways around the problems,” says SI-TEX vice president Allen Schneider.

The electronics manufacturer discovered that its sea containers, which had been arriving at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach in California, had been causing long delays and hassles, creating “a nightmare,” Schneider says.

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“We used AIS tracking websites to track the ships carrying our products, and we could see that once the ships reached the West Coast, they sat at anchor for weeks before being unloaded,” Schneider says. “Once they were unloaded, getting the freight loaded onto trucks was another problem.”

4_SITEX_SI-TEX-T-760-4kW-Marine-Radar-with-7'-Touch-Screen-

SI-TEX worked with its shipping management company to develop an alternative plan, becoming one of the first companies to make logistics changes. By routing their containers to the East Coast via the Panama Canal, they added 10 days to the overall time at sea, but “totally passed by the logjam of ships at the West Coast ports,” Schneider says.

The new destination in Port Elizabeth, N.J., had the added benefit of being serviced directly by a small local trucking company SI-TEX has worked with for years.

But then, the company faced additional snarls as Fed-Ex air shipments arriving from the United Kingdom wound up lost in large facilities in Memphis, Tenn. “They were severely understaffed, and our cartons of inbound products were getting buried under all the other incoming shipments hitting the warehouse continuously,” Schneider says.

SI-TEX found that by having its shipments palletized instead of shipping in cardboard cartons, shipments could arrive directly at its own warehouse using Fed-Ex Freight in just two days without delay.

“Because we have been able to deliver products throughout the year due to our being able to find workarounds for deliveries, our business is up 40 percent overall for the year,” Schneider says.

Torqeedo

German electric marine propulsion innovator Torqeedo introduced Deep Blue in 2012 as a battery-powered outboard, beginning with small engines ranging in equivalency from 1 to 15 hp, and introducing an 80-hp equivalent later in the year.

Torqeedo’s Deep Blue saildrive

Torqeedo’s Deep Blue saildrive

It has since been developed into a modular system architecture with a spectrum of motor, charging, controls and onboard renewable energy generation options that attract younger, more affluent, more educated and more diverse customers, says communications manager Tess Smallridge.

“We don’t build gee-whiz technology showcases for markets that don’t exist yet,” Smallridge says. “Torqeedo builds practical, reliable electric drives that serve their purposes and delight customers, and we’ve been doing it for 17 years.”

In 2022, Torqeedo’s Deep Blue sail drives, developed in partnership with ZF Marine, were built to generate more power while under sail without affecting sailing speed. The Advanced Hydrogeneration System, once enabled, automatically manages the torque and rpm of the spinning propeller, maximizing the generative capabilities while accounting for the variable impacts of current and wind several times per second.

Concurrently, Torqeedo is developing a hydrogen-electric Deep Blue Hybrid system, a marine hydrogen hybrid building kit designed to provide a practical and cost-effective solution to allow for fast fueling, overcome speed and range limitations, and meet the most restrictive emission requirements on environmentally sensitive waterways or in urban areas where hydrogen fueling infrastructure is feasible.

Torqeedo’s Deep Blue electric motor

Torqeedo’s Deep Blue electric motor

“For specialized waterways, planing boats or ferries, hydrogen integration allows electric boats to fuel and perform more like combustion,” Smallridge says.

The company also launched its first project with Deep Blue azimuth thrusters, which deliver continuous power of 50 kW and a peak power of 65 kW, and can rotate up to 360 degrees. The system is powered by Deep Blue lithium-ion batteries with a battery bank capacity of 80 kWh to 1 MWh. The high-capacity batteries meet IEC 62619 and IEC 62620 requirements, and the DNV-GL type-approved battery variant is available for offshore applications.

A Godfrey Marine pontoon equipped with a Torqeedo electric outboard 

A Godfrey Marine pontoon equipped with a Torqeedo electric outboard 

“The boaters we’re hoping to attract through Discover Boating — younger, more diverse — they’re much more environmentally focused, and want recreational activities they can feel good about,” Smallridge says. 

This article was originally published in the November 2022 issue.

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