32.4% of American adults participated in recreational boating in 2010

They didn’t have enough cash for a cruise to the Caribbean.   They didn’t have the available credit on their credit card to charge a flight to Disney World.

But 75 millions of Americans during tough economic times the perfect little getaway in 2010: a weekend of boating.


While other industries sank as the recession took hold, recreational boating saw numbers hit a record in 2010, when 32.4% of American adults participated in the leisure activity. That’s the highest percentage since 1999, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

High gas prices didn’t seem to faze boaters. Neither did high unemployment or falling consumer confidence.


“It’s that whole concept of a staycation,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “For what it costs you for one week in Disney World, you could be out on the boat every single weekend.”

Paul Ruegamer and his wife, Dana, didn’t get on the water every weekend, but the Noblesville, Ind., couple took their boat out at least once every two weeks last summer.

“There is something relaxing about being on the water,” said Ruegamer, who plans to make his 2011 boating debut this weekend .

“All it takes is good, hot weather and dry weather, and we rent out of boats,” said Damon Cappy, general manager of Lake Monroe Boat Rental at Lake Monroe in Bloomington, Ind. “When times are not as booming, people with a little bit of money are renting boats.”

Boaters also are forking out extra cash for aftermarket accessories. That category saw sales increase 6% to $2.4 billion in 2010. Spending per boat averaged about $150.

Boaters also increased their spending on operating costs, including insurance, docking, fuel and maintenance.

One segment of boating, however, hasn’t enjoyed increases: new boat sales.

Nationwide, 188,230 new power and sailboats were sold last year, down about 10% from 2009.

At Ted’s Aqua Marine in Indianapolis, sales last year were about a third of what they were five years ago.

“Who’s buying a boat? Who’s competing for the dollar? We obviously have to share it between golf, motorcycling, whatever else somebody wants to do,” owner Ted Novicki said. “If it’s too hot and dry, people don’t boat. If it’s too cold, they don’t boat. The weather is our biggest deterrent. Or our biggest help.”

Via USA Today