Part One: Surging demand for used boats and supply chain headwinds have created an unprecedented environment for boaters everywhere.
Temperatures are rising, vaccines are rolling out and boaters everywhere are looking ahead to another season on the water. The boat-buying surge that peaked last summer amidst social distancing regulations has—perhaps surprisingly—continued to climb. Boatbuilders around the world are saying demand is so high that they’re having trouble keeping up. (Order books are filled, in some cases, until 2023.) Many manufacturers have looked to beef up their workforces in hopes of bridging the gap.
It’s not just new boats being snatched up; brokerage boats are also enjoying their day in the sun. “I’ve never seen this before, but everyone is coming in and offering asking price for our brokerage boats,” said Petzold’s Yacht Sales President Bob Petzold.
The pandemic-induced surge should be good news for all involved, right? Yes and no. Boaters everywhere have likely noticed delays in new boat deliveries, engines, parts and service because of what one marine professional called “a perfect storm” of supply chain issues. As boaters ourselves, we’ve been witnessing these delays firsthand. To get to the heart of these issues, the Power & Motoryacht team reached out to leaders throughout the industry to determine why they’re seeing such delays and how it might affect your boating.
The first big question in this supply crisis is simple: Why? The answer, however, is much less simple.
“[The supply issue is] pretty widespread,” says Sabre/Back Cove Marketing Manager Jamie Governale. “There was extreme weather in Texas, and we’ll eventually feel the trickle down from Ever Given getting stuck in the Suez Canal. So many things are stacking up against us.”
Another industry veteran cites the uptick in demand in other industries as a contributing factor to the compounding supply issues. “Cars, bikes and boats are all surging, and we all rely on some of the same suppliers; for example, cars and boats both need semiconductors from China, so the whole supply chain is stretched very, very thin. Then if you add the Covid layer and the pressure on employees in factories who are constantly being tested for Covid, it’s snowballing,” he said. A bottleneck of container ships off the coast of California, specifically the Port of Long Beach, is also a factor. “Some ships are sitting offshore for six or seven days before they can offload when they used to sit for maybe a day or two,” he said.
“In Texas there is an incredibly large factory that makes resin that is facing a shortage because they had freezing temperatures. What happened is that under a certain temperature, the chemical reaction needed to make the resin doesn’t work,” he said. “We should have had a tanker of resin on Friday, but instead it arrived on Monday. When you build dozens of boats a week, things can get pretty tight.”
Randy Fullerton: Tallahassee, Florida, Boater
So, what of the buyers—the folks who are determined to enliven their leisure hours with either a new or used recreational vessel? Tallahassee veterinarian Randy Fullerton is one of the lucky ones—he already has a couple of boats docked behind his Florida Panhandle home, each of them outboard-powered. But his desire to boost the size of his fleet with another vessel has been completely stymied by a supply-chain snafu. “I’m dealing with Parkway Marine here in town,” he says, “because they have the line of boats I’m interested in. And I want Yamaha—it’s the brand I’m familiar with and have had good luck with. But guess what—the guy at Parkway is telling me I can’t get a Yamaha until the end of this year or maybe the beginning of next. If I want go with a Suzuki, he’s telling me they can cut the wait time a little bit, but by exactly how much he’s not saying. But like I said, I want the Yamaha brand so I’m just going to have to be patient I guess.”
Dan Harding: Editor-in-Chief/Boat Buyer
Those who read my column know that I’ve been scouring the brokerage market for my next boat. I’ll let the suspense on what particular model I’m looking at build, but I’ll admit to having found what I hope is “the one.” Knowing used boats are still in high demand (but not really understanding how ravenous people are for boats), I gave the current owner a modest deposit to hold the boat while I tracked down a surveyor. You might think I’m an incredibly well-connected marine professional—at least I like to think that way. Well, when I started calling around to find a surveyor, I learned otherwise. One after another said, “Love to help you but I won’t be able to get to you for at least a month.”
One surveyor I talked to actually happened to be a longtime Power & Motoryacht reader. Surely, he’d bump me up the list a little, right? No dice. He was double booked every day for a month straight. Since he is a good surveyor and a loyal reader, I decided I’d stick with him and wait the month (patience is not a virtue I normally possess).
Since scheduling the survey, I’ve heard from the boat’s current owner that he has been approached by multiple parties with envelopes of cash. Frankly, I wouldn’t begrudge him if he capitalized on the surging demand and started a bidding war. That he is honoring our initial handshake deal speaks to his character and the character of boaters in general.
The surge in boating, I’d learn, isn’t just affecting the availability of good surveyors, but the availability of good boat slips. I suppose I should have seen this one coming, but my favorite marinas that had plenty of vacancy a couple years ago are now packed like sardines.
I could grumble here, but I won’t. If there is one thing the pandemic should have taught all of us, it’s the value of patience and gratitude. If my biggest problem is a long wait for a survey and spending a summer on a mooring instead of a slip by the pool, well, then things are going pretty damn well. If Dan from April 2020 heard me gripe today about those things he’d probably punch me in the mouth, and it would be deserved.
Waiting on a new boat isn’t fun. A delay in getting new motors isn’t fun. Longer than usual delays for service while your yard struggles to keep up with demand isn’t fun. When you feel like giving your dealer or yard owner an earful, I’d urge you to think about the reporting my colleagues compiled in this special report. Put yourself in their boat shoes and remember: We’re all in this together, and these “problems” would have been laughable a year ago.
Patience, my friends. We’ll all be back on the water soon enough.