OCONOMOWOC – The boating industry is currently in the midst of its busiest time in history, at least according to a Lake Country dealer.
Erik Tinus, owner of Tinus Marine at Oconomowoc, said boat sales have increased significantly since the start of the pandemic and last year was a banner year for his business.
âWe’re almost out of boats,â Tinus said. “We are on track to sell our boats by the end of June.”
In previous years, Tinus said, selling boats was never an option he thought of.
âI never thought it would be possible in my lifetime, to be honest,â he said.
The boom in the boating industry – as well as most other outdoor and recreational industries – is a result of the pandemic and more and more people wanting to be outdoors.
Bill Sheahan, Gordy Lakefront Marine sales manager, said the feeling he was seeing among his customers was that people were buying boats when vacations and weddings were called off last year. “What remains to be done apart from getting out?” Sheahan said. âCustomers spent more hours on their boat last summer than ever before.â
According to figures from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the number of boats on the water in Wisconsin increased from 2019 to 2020 along with the number of new boat registrations.
In 2019, there were 608,350 boats in total in Wisconsin, a number that rose to 624,005 in 2020.
In addition, new registrations – which include the renewal of registration and the registration of new boats – also climbed from 2019 to 2020. In 2019 there were 227,610 new registrations and in 2020 that number increased to 291669.
Finally, while the pandemic has ended all in-person boating safety courses, online courses have increased during the pandemic. In 2019, 16,890 students were certified with their boating license. With online courses in 2020, that number has almost doubled to 29,651.
With more boats on the water, Tinus said Tinus Marine has often worked with the Coast Guard and held boaters’ safety courses to help keep boaters safe on the water.
âEither way, it takes experience,â Tinus said. âI think there are going to be challenges on the water because people are inexperienced and don’t know the waterway. Waterways are not as clearly marked as a motorway per se. This is the biggest challenge most of the time. “
Tinus said knowing the water boaters are in is a big safety issue.
âOne person might be one of the safest boaters out there, but they might not be familiar with this particular waterway,â Tinus said. â(They could) sail and they could hit a rocky ridge that they might not have known.â
Sheahan said he says every new boat owner to take the boater safety course because it is a âwealth of knowledgeâ. As part of Gordy’s business practice, the company helps all new boat owners acclimate to their boat and show them the basic rules of the water, Sheahan said.
âAs part of our boat in the water delivery, we go into the water with them and teach them the dos and don’ts of boating and boating,â said Sheahan. .
When a person is the captain of their boat, they are not only responsible for the boat and what happens outside the boat, but they are also responsible for everyone on board and their actions.
“We take this very seriously because frankly if you’re having fun and someone gets hurt it’s a black eye on the nautical lifestyle and we don’t want to see that or someone get hurt.” Sheahan said.
âWe want everyone to have fun and create memories for years to come.â
For helpful resources, Tinus said boaters can download an app that gives waterway depths to help them navigate new areas.
Sheahan and Tinus said the biggest problem they’ve seen is on the manufacturers side, with supply not being able to meet people’s demand.
âIt’s been a challenge for these guys and they have a tough road, âSheahan said. âThey have done everything to build boats for us and for our customers.â
Tinus said that for Tinus Marine sourcing was a case-by-case basis for manufacturers and how well they could keep pace – noting that one of their pontoon suppliers was good at delivering boats and that others hadn’t sent one in months, with orders backed up from September.
Tinus said both used and new boat inventories were at historically low levels.
âThe boat business pretty much gets on the ground and is sold sometimes in a few hours and others in less than a week,â he said.
Additionally, Tinus said he started selling boats for 2022 as the model year change came in July.
He added that he doesn’t think the inventory issues will be resolved anytime soon.
âI think there will be inventory challenges for next year as things get fixed and we come out of the pandemic,â Tinus said. âWill the demand decrease? It may or may not. These are uncharted waters for everyone. “
Tips for the safety of boaters
The Water Sports Foundation, a nonprofit educational arm of the Water Sports Industry Association, has published 12 Boating Safety Tips on the Water.
1) Be educated on your boat and know the essential equipment
2) Wear your life jacket
3) Do not drink and drive
4) Engage the engine cut-off switch
5) File a flotation plan with your friends and family in the event of a problem on the water
6) Watch the weather
7) Speak with passengers before departure to make sure safety rules are followed
8) Conform to the capacity of the boat
9) Be careful and pay attention
ten) Choose destinations wisely – new boaters should think twice before taking their boat for the first time on a busy weekend.
11) Follow posted speed limits and no wake up zones
12) Beware of night navigation
Total boats in Wisconsin
2020: 624 005
Certified boating safety students
2020: 29 651