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State of the sailboat biz

Discussion in 'Ask All Sailors' started by Phil Herring, May 24, 2018. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. Phil Herring

    Phil Herring Dethroned Admin

    Joined Mar 25, 1997
    4,366 posts, 229 likes
    US Bainbridge Island
    How do you see the state of the sailboat business, 10 years after the last recession?

    What's your take on the state of builders, component manufacturers, as well as the health of the new and used sailboat markets?

    Extra credit for observations made while selling or buying a boat.

    Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 1.50.04 PM.png

  2. h2o_snow


    Joined Nov 18, 2016
    43 posts, 11 likes
    Hunter 260
    US Lucky Peak
    Interesting broad based question.

    Our experience is that it is a buyers market for used trailer sailers. The Clorox bottle water ballast boats - H260, M26 & C25 all were made well enough that they have held up (with minimal maintenance) and are extremely affordable. Definitely feel that potential listing price of a new design of this type could not compete with the current used market.

    The issue with sailing participation is the learning curve and time. To become proficient & safe takes more than passing a 101 & 102 course. The Southern Idaho Sailing Association has been a racing orientated club for 50 years. Our median membership age gets higher every year. We do well getting folks out and on boats but not converting them to ownership. Biggest reason is family commitments/time. You gotta want to sail. Have implemented a small boat (Laser) program. Any SISA family member can reserve a Laser (now have 3) during our regattas and just mess around/learn to sail or even race. Seems to be working slowly - the fleet is growing and we are seeing more kids.

    Cannot comment on the larger boat market as I crew but am not an owner.

    Will Gilmore likes this.
  3. Justin_NSA


    Joined Jul 7, 2004
    4,625 posts, 701 likes
    Hunter 30T
    US Cheney, KS
    If our club is any indication: in 2004 when we joined there was a waiting list for a wetslip. Now about 25% are vacant. Aging enthusiasts? Less discretionary income? Our marketing team is doing a lot to try to attract new sailors.

    Last edited: May 25, 2018
  4. JamesG161


    Joined Feb 14, 2014
    2,907 posts, 846 likes
    Hunter 430
    US Waveland, MS
    I see the market rising in sales. Why?
    Not to get too political, but recent law changes for small local lending banks will free up cash for new boat sales.

    PS: Sailing versus PWC's is a tilt of its own, but when I have Full sails up in a river or near the shore, every one is pointing, waving, and taking pictures, especially the younger set.

  5. IDtrucks


    Joined Apr 5, 2018
    77 posts, 26 likes
    Hunter 22
    LIL NELLIE US Jackson
    Glad to see another SISA member. I did a few races a couple years ago before moving to Wyoming. The barrier to entry for younger people is huge. Have to know how to buy a boat, and sail it, and have space for it...and oh ya have to actually have the money to pay for it. There’s just a lot of competition among all the sports and hobby’s out there for people to spend their precious free time on.

    I would love to see more young people trying it out. Everyone I take absolutely loves it. It would be cool to have some sort of training program where you could take people out and train them on some races, wit the carrot on the stick being they get to skipper a race.

    Number one place to start...colleges. At least for SISA, maybe try BSU, and see if there is any interest in some advertising there?

  6. Kings Gambit

    Kings Gambit

    Joined Jul 27, 2011
    2,737 posts, 512 likes
    Bavaria 38E
    US Alamitos Bay
    I see more interest in multi-hulls. I've noticed what seems to be more folks buying their first boat in their late 30's to 40's. Seems to be split between purchases of fairly large ones (e.g., Catalina 42; Tartan 370) or commonplace smaller ones (e.g., Catalina 30). As mentioned, slip vacancies in some lengths are high by "historical standards" of my boating life. WM is now effectively a "beginners" boater store--lots of non-sailing-specific merchandise. I like the innovative use of advanced materials in sailing hardware, e.g., as soft shackles & non-wire halyards, etc.

  7. JRacer


    Joined Aug 9, 2011
    730 posts, 177 likes
    Beneteau 310
    US Cheney KS (Wichita)
    Have to add that during that time (2013-14) our slips were literally on the ground due to drought for two seasons. Lake down 8+ feet. That drove a bunch of people out of our club to other places that had water and some returned but some did not and it pushed some of those that were riding the fence out of the sport altogether. Aging out has been an issue and as Justin said, we are working to replace those folks but it is not easy.

  8. nightowle


    Joined Aug 28, 2006
    225 posts, 31 likes
    Bavaria 35E
    US seattle
    Here in Seattle as I understand it, the new market is fairly robust. Lending is easy now. However, slips are hard to find. Most marinas have limits on liveaboards, but the private ones can allow for more. With housing tight, more people are turning to on water living as an alternative without caring much about the boat they are on that goes nowhere. The used market in quality sailboats, according to my broker friend, is very tight. Not much inventory of note to offer buyers. Plenty of people head out of town for purchases including nearby Vancouver where the US greenback stretches your purchase quite a bit.

  9. Bob R.

    Bob R.

    Joined Jun 5, 2004
    141 posts, 5 likes
    Hunter 356
    US Pasadena, MD
    We are in the final stage of ordering and buying a new Marlow Hunter 40. It is a factory direct purchase which has allowed us a lot of flexibility customizing systems, layout and equipment. The MH factory folks have been a pleasure to work with, offering suggestions and responding to my many questions and special requests. Their new boat business is a shadow of what it was prior to the 2008 financial crisis, but with capital input and personal enthusiasm from David Marlow since he brought the company out of bankruptcy in 2012, they are still building boats and incorporating innovations into the design and build quality. The hull was cast in October, my wife and I stopped to see the boat being worked on in January, and I am flying down to Florida to do the final inspection on June 6. They have other orders, but not many. We saw them finishing up a new MH 47DS when we were there in January and they had just shipped a couple of MH31's.

    From our perspective, the used sailboat market appears to be fairly strong on the Chesapeake Bay. We listed our 2002 Hunter 356 at the end of November. The broker didn't get most of the adds placed until early January and I had 2 offers above my asking price by the 1st week of February. My marina neighbor sold his early 90's Catalina 36 within 3 weeks in December.

  10. pateco


    Joined Aug 12, 2014
    2,102 posts, 551 likes
    Hunter 31 (1983)
    US Pompano Beach FL
    I got an unsolicited offer for my H31 last week.

  11. SFS


    Joined Aug 18, 2015
    1,460 posts, 434 likes
    Hunter 31
    US Tampa Bay
    @patecov- Chip, I'd be interested in knowing what it was, if you're willing to share via PM. Karen and I are thinking ours is a little too small, and we've started looking at bigger boats. 4-foot- itis has apparently struck.

  12. pateco


    Joined Aug 12, 2014
    2,102 posts, 551 likes
    Hunter 31 (1983)
    US Pompano Beach FL
    I didn't let it get that far as I was not interested in selling. Club member asked if she was available for sale, and I said not at this time. (It was at our monthly meeting after I had placed first two weeks in a row in our spring race series):biggrin: LOL
    2018-04-29 19.11.43.jpg

    jssailem likes this.
  13. Skipper


    Joined Oct 9, 2008
    1,589 posts, 267 likes
    Bristol 29.9
    US Dana Point
    Of the 2,400 boats in Dana Point Harbor, there are eight (8) sailboats for sale on yachtworld. And half of those are old junkers. Plus a couple of boats for sale by owner. I saw an '80 Newport 30 in fair condition for sale by owner at $21,000, and people actually looking at it.
    It is a sellers' market here. Inventory is near zero. We are scratching for listings.

  14. agprice22


    Joined Aug 3, 2012
    2,069 posts, 387 likes
    Performance Cruising Telstar 28
    US Watkins Glen
    No new boats for sale around here, in Upstate New York. You would have to go up to Rochester or Buffalo to buy a Bennie from RJR. Used boats are kind of scarce in the 30’ range.
    I sold my 272 for what I asked. I only had 2 people take a look at it. I had a few inquiries.
    Our marina has a few empty slips each year. I am told that it was full a decade ago. I think a 2012 Hunter is the newest boat, and my 2005 Telstar 28 might be next!
    There is a college program teaching sailing on Cayuga, and there is a teaching program in our marina, but no active youth fleet.
    Our boneyard at the marina has quite a few derelicts. It is sad. We were there in 2012 and again from 2014 to present, and the same boats are still sitting, plus one or two additions to the ghost fleet each year.
    In all, I would say the population is aging here. We have a few younger sailors, but not many.

  15. Franklin


    Joined Jul 20, 2005
    2,411 posts, 115 likes
    Hunter 376
    US Kemah, Tx
    With the addition of wife and child to my boat, things have gotten a little cramped (maybe I am just used to having the whole boat to myself). After 13 years I am now thinking of moving up. I would love a H50CC and had my eye on one in Malaysia but it seems to be sold now (must be a sellers market). After more consideration though of my new family, I have been looking at cats. I am a monohull guy but I think it is best for them.

    The newer cats are pretty awesome. It will be a few years before I can afford one, but I have to say, I think cats are taking the market by storm now. In Tonga the charters, cats were always out, but the monohulls just stayed put on the moorings. I think the future is cats for cruising and chartering but monohulls still rule the weekend racer and weekend sailor.

  16. IDtrucks


    Joined Apr 5, 2018
    77 posts, 26 likes
    Hunter 22
    LIL NELLIE US Jackson
    I look at the major boat sales sites every week, to gauge where the market is for a boat I want (late 80s 42 to 49’ blue water mono)
    And 70% of the ones I like seem to be out of the US. So is The us market disproportionately bad as far as a buyers market goes? I see a lot of boats in Malaysia and New Zealand, any idea on a reason why? Is it a cruising cultural thing where people end up? Better place to have a home port?

  17. TomY

    TomY Alden Forum Moderator

    Joined Jun 22, 2004
    1,194 posts, 721 likes
    Alden 38' Challenger yawl
    US Rockport Harbor
    The used boat market seems like it's building some steam on our coast. Pressure (waiting lists) for mooring/dockage seems to be on the rise, as well. Sailing is strong on our coast so demand for boats is good.

    New production sailboats: I can't say I've even seen a new production sailboat on the coast of Maine, in a few years (maybe a smaller J boat or two).

    The familiar regional production builders are out of business or building power boats. All the action in new sailboats has been in custom designs. Not many custom boats are built and they are high end, but it shows there are buyers for new boats.

    The larger production boat builders apparently are more popular in other parts of the country.

    When we've been in the EU, I could see the larger production builders are very strong. This is a marina in Howth Ireland, a few years ago. Sailing is very strong in the EU.
    Howth harbor (1 of 1).jpg

  18. 25yearslater


    Joined Aug 20, 2010
    1,399 posts, 86 likes
    Oday 27
    US Oak Orchard
    The whole sailboat business is pretty much in the crapper near Rochester, NY. There are hundreds of slips sitting empty at any marina or yacht club around my area. The marina I store at has more boats being scrapped than stored. Had one Freedom 44 sold and one used Wauquiez show up. A net zero. Even the dock queens have disappeared. At the marine park I dock at the slips are readily available with about 55% occupancy. Every yacht club within 30 miles has bugged me about joining as the membership has dropped precipitously. Really grim from what I see. Good thing the charter fishermen are thriving or the marina would probably close. Lake Ontario is empty other than them or the commercial shipping.

  19. Jackdaw


    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    8,998 posts, 2,288 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
    We’re buying a First 36.7 in Florida. There are 4 for sale in the area, which seemed about right. Prices seems correct for a 10 year old 36 footer. Sellers very motivated. That might be due to the racing nature of the boat, which limits appeal in FL. Slips hard to come by due to storm damage, but buoys are available.

    Here in MN most marinas are full. On Minnetonka WYC has a waiting list. SYC is full. Up in Bayfield the 1000+ slips are 95% occupied, 75% with sailboats.

    I have several standing offers for BlueJ, but that’s partly due to her being the only 260 in the country, and she’s in great shape.

    It’s clear the average age of sailors is getting older, if you look at ownership. At WYC we work with crew members who when to own boats, even setting up partnerships. Our crewmembers average age is probably 15 years younger than the ave owner age.

    New boat sales, I talked about this before; the builders that mix 4 things will do OK.
    1) strong international sales
    2) big (55 foot) + Yacht segment
    3) powerboat
    4) modern designs that do not compete with 15 year old used boats

    If a build does not do these things, I fear for them.

    Last edited: May 26, 2018
  20. Head Sail

    Head Sail

    Joined Nov 13, 2013
    378 posts, 97 likes
    Catalina 34
    US Tacoma
    People take their boats cruising around the world and get to Malaysia, New Zealand, Mexico and say..."my god, I'm not doing that again" then put the boat up for sale.

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