Boat sales remain high after year of outdoor activities, social distancing

ODNR warns of water dangers as holiday weekend approaches.



People bought more boats and jet skies in the U.S. last year than the previous 13 years and this has water safety personnel warning people about water dangers as the holiday weekend approaches.

Andrew Schlegel, manager at Great Miami Outfitters in Centerville, said boat sales have been up at this store for the past few years. This past year, boats are selling out faster, the same way that bicycles and campers have.

“The boat sales have been fantastic,” Schlegel said. “And we pretty much are pre-selling out of everything. This is the second year, and I would assume that it’s going to go into the third year as well.”

About 7,195 more Ohio boating licenses were issued in 2020 compared to 2019. In 2020, a total of 593,685 licenses were issued, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

In the U.S., 2020 was a record sales year for boats and they continue this year with a 15% increase in February compared to the 2020 average, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, a trade organization around boating that’s based in Chicago.

John-Michael Donahue, vice president of the NMMA, noted that many people began buying boats when the COVID-19 pandemic started.

“The recreational boating industry is seeing an uptick in first-time boat buyers, attracting a wider net of Americans looking for an outlet to spend quality time with loved ones, helping to spur the industry’s growth,” he said.

Consumers spent an estimated $595 million on new powerboats, engines, trailers and marine aftermarket accessories in 2020, according to the NMMA. That’s up 20.2% percent compared to 2019, when they spent $495 million.

A total of 278,200 Ohio licenses were issued for kayaks and canoes in 2020, according to the ODNR, and 250,468 licenses were issued for power boats.

But with all the new boaters comes a need for safety. Schlegel said his company is putting a big emphasis on water safety when a customer makes a purchase.

This week is National Safe Boating Week, and the ODNR has several tips to stay safe while boating.

According to Ohio statistics, drowning was the top reported cause of death in four out of five recreational boating deaths in 2020, and that 84% of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets, according to the ODNR.

If you’re out on the water, you should be wearing a life jacket. When selecting a life jacket, check that it is U.S. Coast Guard approved, appropriate for the water activity and fits properly, the ODNR said.

The ODNR also recommends taking a boating course, which can be found on its website, and not drinking while operating a boat. Five Rivers MetroParks also has information about boating safety and where people can boat in the Dayton region on its website.

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