Proceedings Of The Marine

SUM 2015

Proceedings magazine is a communication tool for the Coast Guard's Marine Safety & Security Council. Each quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme of interest to the marine industry.

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27 Summer 2015 Proceedings techniques. The rising cost of dead dinosaurs, the lack of any viable alternatives, and the psychology of the boater represent the tea leaves we've used to read this chapter of the future of boating. Economic Factors While using these new materials and techniques will con- tinue ranges and speeds that are acceptable to boaters, boats will become more expensive to build. There will be the initial costs of retooling, which will be passed on to the consumer, and the ongoing costs of using more expensive materials. Boat prices will also see spikes as clean air and water initia- tives and legislation come into effect. Individual boat opera- tion, and the operation of the manufacturing facility that makes the boats, will become more costly on a daily basis. We also foresee participation in recreational powerboat- ing growing, but slowly, in the future. At a minimum, the same number of folks who are boating today will be boating 20 years from now. The only reason we think that boating participation will not shrink is due to the ferce loyalty most boaters display for the sport. This last point may bode well for boaters and those who serve and protect boaters. If our prediction holds true and most current boaters remain boaters into the future and fewer new boaters enter into the activity, then the percent- age of educated, courteous boaters should increase in the future. So, the fnancial vise squeezing the sport may result in safer waterways and reduced accidents. Social Patterns The perception is that boating, like any other recreational activity, is dealing with the cultural trend of people moving away from outdoor activities. While the recent recession certainly had a negative impact on boating, will boating inevitably decline in the future? Boat builders are working to ensure that doesn't happen. Statistics show that the number of people involved in rec- reational boating is actually increasing. A 2012 National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) study stated that about 88 million adults participated in recreational boating that year, compared to 70 million adults in 2008, before the brunt of the recession kicked in. And the percent- age of adults who enjoyed boating in 2012 (nearly 35 percent) is the largest the NMMA has recorded since 1997. 1 But one disturbing difference is the amount of time people actually spent on the water. In 2007, the average boater used his boat 32 days; in 2012 he used it only 26 days. 2 What hap- pens if that number continues to drop? And with the average age of recreational boaters hovering in the 40s, and so many other entertainment options available for millennials mov- ing into adulthood, will boating participation stay strong? Part of that depends on what happens with the middle class, as they make up the bulk of recreational boaters. Figures from the Pew Research Center indicate the number of mid- dle-class Americans shrank from 54 percent of the popula- tion in 2008 to 40 percent in 2014. 3 If that trend continues, it doesn't bode well for boating. Yet boat builders are doing what they can to keep boaters engaged and to draw new boaters into the pastime. Every year they incorporate advancements to make boats more reli- able and easier to maintain and operate, inching ever closer to the dream of a boat with the push-button convenience of the modern car. Builders are now offering joystick con- trols for every conceivable type of power — from inboards to stern drives to pod drives and outboards — making it easier than ever to handle a boat. These systems are cur- rently expensive options, but it's not hard to foresee them becoming part of builders' standard-features list in the near future. (Remember how expensive fat-screen televisions were a few years ago?) Electronic technology that was once only the domain of commercial boats and yachts is also making its way into small and inexpensive units for recreational boaters. With glass helms and touch-screen multifunction displays that show digital gauge readouts, charts, video, entertainment, and even the owner's manual, it has never been easier to operate a boat. Who knows, maybe in a few years we'll be able to drive our boats via an app on our smartphone. As far as engaging future boaters, smart builders are meet- ing them on their terms. You can see it in terms of social media. At the time this article was written, the National Marine Manufacturers Association's Discover Boating Facebook page has more than 753,000 likes. Boat builders Technology includes dash-mounted video.

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