Boat­ing. Pass It On.

Power & Motor Yacht - - LOGBOOK -

It was a cold, gray morn­ing. Driz­zle painted the Ger­man road out­side the 16 enor­mous con­ven­tion halls that housed the DÜs­sel­dorf boat show. When I stepped in­side, how­ever, I felt as if my ruby-red boat shoes trans­ported me to a mag­i­cal world for boat nuts. From surf­boards and kayaks to cen­ter consoles and su­per yachts, the an­nual show is a pilgrimage for the Euro­pean marine in­dus­try that brings 1,600 ven­dors from 60 dif­fer­ent coun­tries to­gether to de­but their of­fer­ings for the new year.

Be­sides fill­ing a note­book with news of all the mod­els bound for our shores, this show gives me the chance to spot a host of in­dus­try trends. This year I no­ticed more en­thu­si­asm than ever about the use of car­bon fiber in boat-build­ing. The size of win­dows and sun­roofs con­tin­ues to grow by the year, as does the cre­ativ­ity that de­sign­ers are putting into bow lounges and so­cial spa­ces.

One trend—an alarm­ing one—that rose to the sur­face in var­i­ous talks with over­seas builders, mar­keters, and jour­nal­ists is the ag­ing de­mo­graphic of boat own­ers, and the lack of mil­len­ni­als en­ter­ing our sport. A study I read in our sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion, Trade Only, be­fore fly­ing out to the show was ref­er­enced in many of my con­ver­sa­tions. Ac­cord­ing to the re­port by Info-Link Tech­nolo­gies, in the U.S. to­day there are nearly as many boat own­ers over the age of 80 than there are un­der 30. It took a few mo­ments for the weight of that statis­tic to sink in.

I men­tioned that alarm­ing re­port to Sun­seeker’s Mar­ket­ing Man­ager Bryan Jones af­ter din­ner one night. Jones has been see­ing sim­i­larly alarm­ing trends in the U.K. and is on sev­eral boards aimed at com­bat­ing them.

“Yes, we are hav­ing the same prob­lem here,” added a jour­nal­ist from Ger­many sit­ting be­side us. “Young peo­ple are not get­ting into boat­ing.”

The con­tribut­ing fac­tors, we agreed, are for­mi­da­ble. Stu­dent loan debt is a bar­rier to en­try for many mil­len­ni­als around the world. As a mil­len­nial my­self, I see other ob­sta­cles, most press­ing per­haps is the ab­sence of free time. Peo­ple are busier than ever. In to­day’s world of so­cial me­dia and in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion it’s get­ting harder to put ev­ery­thing on hold and sneak off to the cove for the week­end.

Jones agreed. “Golf, ca­reers, re­la­tion­ships, elec­tron­ics—they all vie for our at­ten­tion, and time.”

“You should of­fer a chal­lenge to your read­ers,” he said. “You should chal­lenge them to take young peo­ple boat­ing. We need to get more young peo­ple out on the wa­ter, and I’m sure they would en­joy pass­ing on some­thing they’re pas­sion­ate about.”

I thought back to my col­leagues Capt. Bill Pike and Si­mon Mur­ray and a cruise they went on last year. I’d tasked Si­mon and Bill—op­po­sites in many ways out­side of their cho­sen pro­fes­sion—to spend a long week­end to­gether nav­i­gat­ing the St. Johns River in Florida. It was an as­sign­ment made un­der the guise of pro­duc­ing a cruis­ing story, but my hope was that a dash of Bill’s pas­sion for boat­ing would rub off on Si­mon and that he’d be hooked on the ben­e­fits it can bring to your life.

I was relieved when both re­ported it was a trip nei­ther would ever for­get (for bet­ter or worse). Bill and I have been pat­ting our­selves on the back re­cently as Si­mon’s be­gun talk­ing about ditch­ing his apart­ment and mov­ing aboard a boat.

“I think you’re onto some­thing there,” I replied to Jones. “Yes, that is a very good idea,” nod­ded the Ger­man jour­nal­ist.

As I was fly­ing home from Ger­many, I re­al­ized these con­ver­sa­tions gave me a deep­ened un­der­stand­ing of how much boat­ing needs younger peo­ple. And if I think about it, I re­al­ize younger peo­ple prob­a­bly need boat­ing now more than ever, too. So, I of­fer this chal­lenge: Clear some time in your hec­tic sched­ule. Grab your kids, grand­kids—hell, take your neigh­bors and their kids—and get them out on the wa­ter. Start shar­ing your pas­sion for boat­ing.

I’d love to hear about mem­o­ries you’ve made while shar­ing your love for the wa­ter with oth­ers. Send your sto­ries and pho­tos to us for a chance to win a new pair of Steiner binoc­u­lars.

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