Change is constant and the marine industry is no different—and we have a front row seat. Here’s a look at some of the major changes and top boating trends we see coming for 2023 and the next few years. We’ll expand on these in later posts, but for now, a brief overview.
- Consolidation is taking place in many businesses, and in recent years it has become rampant in our world. Dealerships are being swallowed by One Water, and marinas and boatyards by Safe Harbor, and manufacturers are fewer in number. As you can imagine this can be both a good and bad thing at the same time.
- Electric and hybrid propulsion has started and shows no sign of slowing down…but it will be awhile before it becomes mainstream.
- In the meantime, gas and diesel engines continue development. High horsepower outboards are the rage right now—for example, Mercury’s 400 and 600 HP 4-stroke motors. Outboard motors can now be found on ever larger boats, up to and including 50 to 60 footers. It is not uncommon to find three, four or even five motors on the back of boats. The larger the boat, the more motors they hang onto it. The latest quiet, fuel efficient and powerful motors make this possible and popular.
- Catamarans are the coming rage. First sailing cats have take over much of the bareboat charter industry, and now power cats are coming on strong, too. These are primarily for southern, warm water uses, where their attributes are best put to use.
- You have no doubt noticed the explosion of pontoon boats on inland waters. They suit the way many people these days choose to do their boating. They are essentially floating party barges.
- Many first-time boaters are starting out with larger boats. This is especially true if they are older.
- One of the primary limitations of growth on the business side of boating is scarcity of skilled labor. Young people learn to use computers, but not skills useful in the trades, such as mechanical, electrical, fiberglass, etc. This is felt at the manufacturer, dealer and boatyard levels.
- Boats are often being used by multiple generations—grandparents, parents and children. Boating is attractive for this reason.
- The pandemic taught people that they can often work remotely on their boats, so they are able to work while sitting in the marina or at a mooring.
- More often than before, couples are choosing to ditch the corporate world for a few years and go cruising and living aboard while they have the health and means to do it. The pandemic also made people realize that life is fragile, it cannot be taken for granted, and putting things off may only result in missing out totally. For sure this drove much of the growth in demand for leisure pursuits over the last several years.
- Boats have become more complicated and full of amenities and new features, which has increased the cost accordingly. The same can be said for vehicles—stripped down vehicles and boats simply do not sell. We have comfort we could not imagine before.
- Years ago, the majority of sailboats over 30 feet were dual-purpose, meaning you could cruise or race them as you saw fit. Today, the dual-purpose boat has become scarce, as the cruisers have become much more oriented toward comfort and ease of handling, while the racers are higher performing than ever before. The dual-purpose designs of recent vintage are better than ever, though.
- Most boats are being designed and equipped so that novices can handle and enjoy them. The same goes for older boaters. This trend allows people to stay in boating longer, before having to move ashore for good.