Local boat sales have increased sharply since the start of the pandemic, causing new boats and engines to go on backorder for months.
Increased boat sales are partly due to the lifestyle change the pandemic has presented as boating is a socially distant activity, Dream Boat Company founder Randy Parten said.
“Some people used to spend their money on tickets for football games or cheer camps for their kids,” Parten said. “All of the money that was spent on group activities has gone into other recreational activities like boating.”
Mike Klanczynski of Lynden purchased a Jeanneau NC 1095 boat in February from Sundance Yacht Sales in the Blaine Marina.
Klanczynski grew up boating in Washington but the lack of boating destinations in California, where he had been living for work, kept Klanczynski from getting out on the water.
“When the pandemic caused my work to go remote, we moved back to Washington,” Klanczynski said, adding that this gave him the opportunity to boat again.
Now that he has a boat of his own, Klanczynski said it’s important for him to give his kids the chance of enjoying the San Juan Islands.
“You get to explore. The weather is always a little different. The currents are always a little different. You go out there and then you’re able to moor or anchor. You can go on a hike, take a dinghy out, see wildlife,” he said. “It means a lot to also be able to share that experience with the kids.”
Although Klanczynski is now boating in the San Juans with his kids, he said that finding the boat was not easy.
“The only reason we were able to secure a boat was because we started looking in late December. By the time the Seattle Boat Show came around, all boats were sold through mid-2022,” he said.
While there’s an uptick in boat sales, there are now fewer Canadian boats in local marinas.
Blaine harbormaster Andy Peterson said about 60 Canadian boaters have left the marina since the pandemic started but new boats have already filled those spots.
Jenny Fouquette, assistant harbormaster for Friday Harbor marina, said slips where Canadian boats once were docked are now filled, but the border closure still has impacted marinas.
“Being so close to Canada, permanent moorage customers loved taking their boats up there for long trips,” Fouquette said. “When they’re gone, we can sublease their slips to customers. With the pandemic, these permanent moorage customers have less options for travel, so a lot of them haven’t taken their boats out for long trips. This has caused our waitlist for slips to go up.”
Peterson said that with so many new users, the Blaine harbor office has pointed these new boaters toward boater safety information.
“It’s not like pulling an RV down the road,” Peterson said. “It’s a whole different experience.”
The main safety sources Peterson points new boaters toward are U.S. Power Squadrons and U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary courses, Peterson said.
A Washington State Boater Education Card is required for people who operate a boat with 15 horsepower or greater and everyone over the age of 12. To receive a card, boaters must take a course approved by the National Association of State Boating Administrators and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. Once the course is complete, application forms are available at boatered.org and cards can be purchased for $10.
“You really have to know what you’re doing to make sure that boat stays beneath you. New boaters don’t always realize that,” said Parten with Dream Boat Company. “You’re in very cold water with a lot of obstacles. We have some of the most beautiful boating in the world, but also some of the most dangerous.”
Along with boat safety, new boaters also need to be aware of the costs that come with it.
“No other vehicle has the challenge that a boat does of living in the most torturous environment possible, which is in salt water. It gets beat up in the water. Because of those things, maintaining a boat is more expensive than any new boater will probably imagine,” Parten said.
Parten described boats as one of the most sophisticated consumer vehicles, having two separate electrical systems, a plumbing system, having to be water-tight and often having two sets of running gear.
“The purchase of the boat is where the cost only begins,” Parten said.