"Traditionally, consumer confidence is very closely tied to boat sales," Hopkins said. "When you see consumer confidence rise, you see new-boat sales rise as well."
The Annapolis sailboat show will display more than 200 vessels, with 27 designs making their debuts, Jacobs said. The powerboat show will feature over 300 vessels, with new models from a number of manufacturers.
Beneteau America, a leader in the sailboat industry, is turning heads with its line of trawlers, a recreational version of commercial fishing boats designed for stability and spaciousness. The $900,000 Swift Trawler 50 debuted at Baltimore's Trawler Fest this weekend and will make its second stop at the powerboat show in Annapolis, where Beneteau's business office is located.
Germany's Bavaria Yachts opened its U.S. operation in Annapolis in 2011 and lifted the curtain on its Cruiser line of sailboats at last fall's show. This year, it will feature its new $311,000 Vision, a 46-footer designed to keep a couple "very comfortable, with occasional guests," McCord said.
The old pattern of buying a 30-foot beginner boat and then upgrading through a series of "3-foot-itis"has been turned on its head as the economy strengthens, he said.
"The younger crowd starts at 37 feet and higher. They want to jump into the 40-foot club right away," McCord said. "People are starting to buy boats instead of a cabin or a beach house so they can change their neighborhood, their back-porch scenery, when they want."
But boat manufacturers and brokers are banking on pent-up demand to help get the good times rolling again.
"People hit the pause button on purchases. We're seeing more serious buyers coming out," Hopkins said. "Boating is a lifestyle. So if you've got that bug, you're going to figure out a way to make that lifestyle happen."