Boat sales booming

Becky Vargo • Jun 16, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Boaters are encouraged to get out on the water and celebrate Michigan’s vast freshwater resources, says Ron Olson, chief of the state’s Department of Natural Resources’ Parks and Recreation Division.

Michigan boasts 3,288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, more than 11,000 inland lakes, and 36,350 miles of rivers and streams.

As Michigan Boating Week (June 10-16) winds down, the number of boats on the water cranks up, although activity seems to be on par with recent years for this time of year, according to Mike Sheahan, operations officer for Coast Guard Station Grand Haven.

“Boating traffic is slowly picking up, but it’s weather dependent,” he said.

The marinas have most of their boats in the water, and the long-range forecast shows highs reaching into the upper 80s and lower 90s for the Fourth of July weekend.

“If the wind dies down, we’ll be busy,” Sheahan said.

Pontoons, center consoles are the latest rage

Adding to the busy waterways will be a lot of new pontoon and console boats, said Skipper Bud’s General Manager Rick Williams. 

Williams said their pontoon sales are up 85 percent over last year. Boat sales overall are up by about 50 percent.

But more and more people who want a Lake Michigan-friendly craft are going to the center fiberglass console boats, Williams said. This allows the dad to go fishing, but also has plenty of room and power for the family members who want to do water sports. It also has higher sides, so it’s safer for small children.

Williams said Skipper Bud’s will be showing off one of the larger versions of that boat during the Grand Haven Yacht Days, a public event scheduled for June 23-25 at the Grand Haven showroom and at Grand Isle Marina.

“We’ll have several large boats in the water,” he said.

One of those will be a 42-foot center console Scout with a 1,400-horsepower outboard motor valued at $1 million. It takes 9-10 months to get it built and delivered.

“This is definitely a little bit of a showboat,” Williams said.

To cover the cost spectrum, the Grand Haven store sells everything from inflatable boats to 100-foot yachts. 

Farther inland, employees at Camp & Cruise, 1613 Hayes St. in Marne, have already gone past the majority of boat sales and are knee deep in accessories and service work, according to office manager Chris Smith. They sell mostly fishing boats and pontoons used on the inland lakes and rivers.

The trend is toward a larger pontoon with a larger engine, Smith said. This allows more all-around use, including pulling a skier.

A new pontoon line that is gaining popularity is the Thunder Jet with its heavy-gauge aluminum pontoons. Smith said these boats would take more of the wave action on the bigger lakes. 

A boating hotspot

The Secretary of State website shows more than 790,000 boats registered in Michigan, with 26,158 of those being in Ottawa County. There’s also more than 300,000 non-registered canoes, kayaks and paddleboards, DNR officials said.

With so many people and vessels on the water, it’s important to make sure you have the right safety gear on board, Sheahan said.

“We want to stress — wear life jackets, especially if you are doing paddle sports,” he said. “Don’t put yourself in a precarious position.”

Download the U.S. Coast Guard application on your smartphone for information, filing float plans, rules of the road, buoys, requesting a safety check and an emergency assistance button. More information is also available at www.michigan.gov/boating.

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