Boat shows, sales sailing again



The fall boat shows are coming, riding a surge of economic activity that eventually might return boat manufacturers and marine equipment retailers to the high-water marks of the early to mid-1980s.

The U.S. Sailboat Show opens to the public along the Annapolis waterfront on Thursday and the U.S. Powerboat Show opens there a week later. And while the sailboat show, for example, has half the 500 in-the-water exhibitors that it had roughly a decade ago, some of the major manufacturers are back in force.

The reason seems to be that buyers and lenders again are gaining confidence in a recreational market that went flat with the recession of the late 1980s and the early years of this decade.

"The activity seems to be growing steadily on both new and used boats," said Jill Tomsuden, branch manager of Essex Credit Corp.'s Annapolis office. "It is not what it once was, but the lenders we deal with are again willing and interested in boats."

Telephone calls during the past few weeks to banks and specialized marine finance companies found that loans for both new and used boats are available at interest rates from roughly 9.5 percent for loans over $25,000 to 10.5 percent for lesser amounts.

Federal user fees and excise tax on amounts of boat purchases over $100,000 have been eliminated, and boaters -- both power and sail -- can expect reasonably stable conditions to continue.

According to BOAT/U.S., a retail and service organization that has more than 500,000 members nationwide, more recreational boats have been sold in the United States during 1994 than in any year since 1989.

Five years ago, more than 637,000 boats were sold before sales declined to 504,000 in 1990 and 439,000 in 1991. Since the 1991 low point, boat sales have risen steadily, with sales numbering 456,000 in 1992 and 491,000 in 1993.

This year's sales of 626,414 represent a 22 percent increase over last year.

Personal watercrafts represent the portion of the market that is fastest growing, sales up 44 percent over last year, which was up 35 percent over 1992.

Sailboats showed the smallest increase this year, with sales of 12,160 representing a gain of 8 percent.

Aside from personal watercraft, or jet skis, the largest gains were made by manufacturers of boats powered by outboard motors (up 29 percent) and used for day cruising, water skiing or fishing.

Within the sailboat industry, multihulls are making better than average gains and the Annapolis show claims it will have the largest fleet of trimarans and catamarans of any show in the world.

Sabre Yachts of Casco, Maine, which opened at the first Annapolis show 25 years ago with a popular 28-foot sloop, will have three new models on hand this year from 36 to 42 feet, as well as Hull #1 of the Sabre 28.

Catalina, Beneteau, Hunter, Island Packet, J/Boats, Jeanneau, Freedom and Tartan are among the other manufacturers that will have multi-boat displays.

Among the notable new designs making their debuts are the Cal 33 from Little Compton Yachts; Neria, a classic Herreshoff 36 design built by Middleton Marine; and the MX20, a trailerable, racer-cruiser built by Holby Marine and designed by Vladislav Murnikov, who designed Fazisi, the Soviet Whitbread racer.

According to show organizers, the strong condition of the U.S. market again has foreign builders out in force, with several European and Far East companies represented.

Among the more notable designs are the Kirie 42 from France and the newly redesigned Nauticat motorsailers, pilothouse sloops that are said to have an exceptional turn of speed.

The U.S. Powerboat Show is expected to be larger than in several years, with more than 290 craft in the water ranging up to the 76-foot Lazzara Sport Yacht worth $2.6 million.

According to the National Marine Manufacturer's Association, Americans are spending 24 percent more on boats this year than last and shipments of new boats are up 10 percent.


Type .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..1993 .. .. .. .....1994 .. .. .Pct.

Sailboats .. .. .. .. .. ..11,260 .. .. .. .. 12,160 .. .. .. 8

Personal watercraft .. ...107,000 .. .. .. ..154,000 .. .. ..44

Outboard boats.. .. .. ...205,000 .. .. .. ..264,000 .. .. ..29

Sterndrive boats .. .. ... 75,000 .. .. .. .. 87,000 .. .. ..16

Canoes .. .. .. .. .. .. ..89,700 .. .. .. ..104,900 .. .. ..17

Inboard cruisers.. .. .. ...3,375.. .. .. .. ..4,354 .. .. ..29

Totals .. .. .. .. .. .. .491,335 .. .. .. ..626,414 .. .. ..22 U.S. SAILBOAT SHOW

Where: Annapolis city docks and harbor

When: Thursday-Oct. 10, 10 a.m. opening each day.

Admission: Adults, $9; all children 12 and under $4.

Information: (410) 268-8828.


Where: Annapolis city docks and harbor

When: Oct. 13-16, 10 a.m. opening each day.

Admission: Adults, $9; all children 12 and under $4.

, Information: (410) 268-8828.

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