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A Complex Set of Metrics, Trends and Demographics

April 9 2018 at 6:03 PM
Craig L  (Login clindberg)

Response to The classic fiberglass runabout fleet in the USA is being threatened !

Very interesting topic at many levels especially for those of us with a perspective on boating history that spans decades, not just a few years. So fully understanding what's going on may be like trying to explain quantum physics on a cocktail napkin.

My first thought though is current boating is the product of skyrocketing boat prices and associated costs of ownership brought on by less competition, heavier govt regulation on production and ownership, ever shrinking leisure time and a smaller population of buyers prepared to deal with the challenges of mounting a weekend foray on a local lake. The contemporary lineup and offering of watercraft are the result of that.

Our classic wooden and fiberglass boats don't fit that scenario very well and hence their gradual disappearance from the everyday boating world. This doesn't mean they don't have a place, it just may not be as obvious or well known. Gen X and Millenial audiences may simply not have come to appreciate them for what they are...yet.

Any comparison of a fiberglassic sportboat to a new PWC or 24' Sea Ray is really like comparing apples to oranges. Or as I prefer, like comparing a '69 Chevelle SS396 to a 2018 Toyota Camry, which as we all know, there is NO comparison because they represent completely different things.

This is where I think the story gets interesting.

Among the vast production of old fiberglass boats, just like old cars, there are certain ones that standout for their exceptional styling, performance, construction or history aka provenance. No, my father's 16 foot tri-hull w a 40 Evinrude is not going to make that cut even though my sense of personal nostalgia says otherwise.

That means possibly as little as 10-15% of old classic boats will survive because there has to be something exceptional about them for someone to feel compelled to become their care-taker. Not alot different from why so many old cars go to the crusher and just a small percentage find new homes with collectors.

So while it may feel like our classics are disappearing, I think maybe there's a case for arguing they just haven't been discovered yet as widely as say muscle cars, old Airstreams and vintage motorcycles. Maybe that explains why folks come running when they hear those twin 427s or lumpy cam 350s crank up with little to quiet their raw power signature notes, and take in the seductive lines of boats designed by men with names like Hunt, Avery or Wynn. And that's also exactly why nobody will ever come running to see an outboard on a pontoon boat.

Craig L

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