Like a welcome port on the horizon, we can see the end of Covid restrictions. And although this has been a horrible pandemic, it will likely continue to have positive impacts on the boating community for the 2021 season. An influx of new boaters has contributed to a record number of new boat sales.

summer boating trends
Survey results indicate continued growth in boating activities due to various reasons tied to the Covid pandemic.

Twenty four percent of respondents to Sea Tow’s 2021 Summer Boating Trends Survey say they plan to vacation this year by boat (versus other forms of travel) because of the pandemic. And 20 percent cite the pandemic as the reason for extending their boating season in 2021. In addition, the overall survey results indicate continued growth in boating activities due to various reasons tied to the Covid pandemic. 

“Our member survey has typically been a very strong indicator for seasonal recreational boating trends,” said Kristen Frohnhoefer, president of Sea Tow. “In the summer of 2020, Sea Tow saw a 34 percent increase in requests for on-water assistance, and our nationwide network of captains is anticipating another busy season for 2021.” 

Sea Tow noted that in 2020 owners of new boats were 142 percent more likely to need ungrounding services, 108 percent more likely to need fuel delivery, and 11.2 percent more likely to need a battery jump. However, these new boat owners were 22 percent less likely to need a tow.

“These numbers are very interesting,” Frohnhoefer says. “They reflect the fact that new boaters are not yet familiar with things like shifting sandbars and hard-to-navigate channels, or how to manage their fuel, when compared to their more seasoned counterparts—which is getting them into trouble and causing them to call us for assistance. But likewise, these statistics demonstrate what we’ve been saying all along: when it comes to new boats, on-water assistance typically is needed due to user error, not mechanical failure, as newer boats and engines are more reliable than ever before.”

With the number of new boaters on the water, the need for boating education has never been more important. Sixty nine percent of boaters surveyed are looking for more advice on local navigational assistance, mishap prevention, and general boating basics.

Survey results also showed that 30 percent of respondents have found it more difficult to find dockage or marina space, which is another indication of the influx of new boats and boaters. In addition to new boaters, current boat owners are also driving sales trends, with 16 precent moving up to a bigger new boat.

Sea Tow has been a leader of on-water assistance since 1983. Members are provided with a 24/7 direct connection with Coast Guard-licensed captains. This concept, founded by Captain Joseph Frohnhoefer, was established in Southold, NY, when the United States Coast Guard ceased response to non-emergency assistance calls. In addition to on-water assistance, the franchise network handles salvage and recovery missions and responds to natural disasters, environmental hazards, and oil spill cleanups.