TRAVEL 2022: Riding a wave of uncertainty: Boaters face interesting market this summer season

CAPITAL REGION — If you were hoping to get a customized motor boat to drive on the water this summer, you’re out of luck. 

Several issues hitting the motorboat market mean that if you aren’t buying it from the lot you may not be buying one at all. 

However, if you’re looking for a smaller boat – more like a canoe or kayak – you’ll likely find what you need. 

While the boating market was not immune to inflation or manufacturing issues, none of that is stopping people from buying boats and hitting the waters. 

MOTOR BOATS

“Boating in general took off when COVID hit and it hasn’t slowed down,” said Chris Rapp, owner of CR’s Marine Service in Rotterdam. 

But while boating took off, the industry slowed down a bit.

“We got lucky because I ordered my boats early,” Rapp said.

He also ordered more boats in anticipation of people still looking to buy. 

“I’m selling a lot more to first-time boat owners,” he said. 

What he’s not really seeing is a lot of people looking to see their used boats for something newer – in part because the market for used boats has exploded with some people going places where they can get 10 to 15% above high-book value. 

However, if you want something in your favorite color with other customizations to have ready this summer – it’s not going to happen, he said. 

Rapp said that’s because manufacturers are having trouble getting certain parts – including computer chips, a supply issue much like what happened with the vehicle market during the pandemic. 

The supply chain issues also mean some of the boats ordered last year still haven’t made it to customers. 

On top of the supply chain issues, the prices of new boats are up around 20%, Rapp said. Usually there’s a 3 to 5% increase year to year, but the cost of parts went up, so the overall cost is up. Add to that the fact that interest rates have now climbed, and it makes for an interesting selling market, Rapp said. 

But, on the flip side, while people might be paying more for boats, they’re getting a more reliable engine and fuel economy – which could come in handy given the price of gas, which has reached record highs over the months. 

If you’re looking for something a little on the smaller side, without the hassle of filling it up before taking it out on the water – the canoe and kayak market is where you’d look. 

CANOES AND KAYAKS

At Adirondack Kayak Warehouse in Amsterdam, the inventory is generously stocked, said owner Joe Jiardino.

“We have a full warehouse,” he said. 

He said last year was a great year for the store and he is hoping this year will be too. However, he said, “I do think the economy is weighing on people.”

Inflation is currently at an all-time high and the boats could cost anywhere from $299 to $5,000 depending on what you buy. 

However, he said there was very little increase to the prices. Now it’s about getting people to buy a boat. He said that kayaking is very much an impulse sport, but also fun, which is why people do it. 

Jiardino said it’s been a bit of a slow start but he’s hoping it picks up. 

“We’ve put a lot of boats on the water,” he said.  

CAN’T FIND A BOAT?

For those who can’t find a boat, don’t want to own a boat or can’t afford one, places like Freedom Boat Club in Lake George offer visitors the opportunity to rent one. 

The club offers people flexibility, said Lee Gordon, ice president of communications for Brunswick Corp., which owns Freedom Boat Club.

”The past two years [we] have seen an incredible growth in boat sales and field inventory is very low, so we are seeing a combination of things – people are joining the club because a boat isn’t available, they are joining because they love the idea of the club model or, in some cases, people have sold their boat as they get older in age and want to stay on the water and this is the best opportunity,” he said.  

Gordon said the other great part about the club is that if you are a member in New York you can check out a boat at the club’s over 300 other locations. 

People interested in the club would pay a one-time entry fee and monthly dues based on various package options. Insurance and liability are included in the fees, according to the website. 

Members would have access to various kinds of boats, including bowriders, pontoons and deck boats. Members could also get one-on-one training with an experienced captain. When a member is done using the boat, they just return it to the club, according to the website. 

Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @SB_DailyGazette. 

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