Recreational boating is big business. No wonder. After all, boating is well, boatloads of fun. Consider that over 140 million Americans went boating in 2016, that there are nearly 12 million registered boats in the U.S. including power and sail and minis and megas, and that the top three most popular boating activities are fishing, swimming and entertaining, according to the Chicago, IL-based National Marine Manufacturers Association. Considering this mass appeal, there are four key boater demand trends today that are driving how manufacturers design new models.
1. OUTTIES ARE IN
Greater below deck storage space for cruising toys such as paddleboards and fold up bicycles is creating a strong swing towards outboard power in boats below 40-feet.
“Although we are not in the fishing boat business where outboards are prevalent, we are ensconced in the cruising yacht world and even here outboards on smaller vessels have become the power of choice,” says Bentley Collins, vice president of marketing and sales for Back Cove Yachts, in Rockland, ME. “Benefits are quietness, low maintenance, ease of servicing and ability to provide more space within the yacht for accommodations.”
To this trend, the company will introduce its first outboard design, the 34O, this fall, including at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in late October. It’s a configuration that will take Back Cove’s smaller models in an entirely new direction and provide owners with excellent cruising accommodations plus the increased performance of outboard power.
2. CRUISING ON THREE HULLS
Catamarans have been the cruising standard for quite some time. However, the concept of a cruising trimaran is a relatively new.
“Many are pleasantly surprised at the benefits of an additional hull, such as stability, performance, safety and layout opportunities afforded by the vessel’s design,” says Katie Johnson, broker with Ashley Yachts, in Charleston, SC, which represents French-built NEEL trimarans and will show a NEEL 51 at the Annapolis Boat Show in early October.
The newest is the NEEL 47, of which hull No. 1 will launch in late 2018. This marries the smaller footprint of the NEEL 45 with the spacious, innovative design of the NEEL 51, coupled with exciting sailing performance. An adjoining cockpit and salon, referred to by the builder as the ‘cockloon’ offers an expansive space for living and entertaining. A 5-foot 2-inch draft makes this model ideal for shallow draft destinations like off South Florida and the Bahamas.
3. BIGGER, BUT NOT NECESSARILY LONGER
Bigger isn’t necessarily better when it comes to length, according to Elise Moffitt, marketing and public relations coordinator for Horizon Yacht USA, in North Palm Beach, FL. “Our clients are more concerned with interior volume and space. Many are hands own owners that want something that is manageable, doesn’t require a lot of crew or need a 200-foot slip, yet can still comfortably fit friends and family.”
One of the company’s newest models, the Horizon FD87, is a great illustration. It’s just shy of 90-feet, but with a 23-foot, 3-inch beam that includes a spacious on-deck master, four guest staterooms and two crew cabins below deck. Two other notable features are floor-to-ceiling windows and a ‘high-performance piercing bow’ that is efficient at slow speeds and performance-oriented at high speeds. This same speciousness is also evident in the new Horizon V68 motor yacht, which has a 19-foot, 6-inch beam.
Similarly, on the sailing side, the new Moorings 5000 catamaran boasts a 26-foot 5-inch beam with 4-cabins and 4-heads. The first 5000s, which will be on show in Annapolis, arrived in the British Virgin Islands this summer with more due to arrive in December.
“Key features of this new yacht include an extended ‘owner’s cabin’, with a larger walk-in bathroom, as well as an upper lounge area with wraparound seating on the top deck,” says Ian Pedersen, marketing manager for the Americas at The Moorings, in Clearwater, FL.
4. SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE
Specialization isn’t high on today’s boaters wish list. Instead, it’s a craft that offers the best of more than one world. This is especially true when it comes to power catamarans.
“The dual console fits this market, offering fishability, cruising and entertaining with the best seating, technology and comfort. Nothing is sacrificed,” says Wyatt Lane, director of sales and marketing for World Cat Catamarans, In Tarboro, NC. “The 296DC delivers this with a full complement of glass dash electronics from Garmin and interior changes to accommodate multiple seating for crew. The interior space on our 296DC rivals dual consoles in the 32-foot range from competitive mono-hull models.”
Other new models that fit this build are the recently introduced Aquila 36 and 30-foot model to come in early 2019.
“These new boats combine performance and comfort with cross over functions that include weekend overnighters, seaworthy performance, fishing, diving, and a great stable platform to enjoy large parties of friends and family,” says Amanda Ward, manager at MarineMax, in Clearwater, FL, which in 2012 partnered with the Sino Eagle Group to construct this line. “Purchase the fishing and diving options for the Aquila 36 and you have everything covered that 50 footers normally offer. After all, customers today are looking for boats that can deliver on various fronts.”