Opinion

The Ship Hasn’t Sailed on the American Boating Experience

|
Posted: Jun 19, 2020 12:01 AM
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
The Ship Hasn’t Sailed on the American Boating Experience

Source: Townhall/Gabriella Hoffman

Country music artist Kenny Chesney crooned in his 2008 song “Boats” that watercraft are vessels of freedom and harbors of healing. 

Last June, I had the opportunity to learn about boating and its innumerable benefits during a Yamaha Outboards media event. It perfectly coincided with National Fishing and Boating Week.

The charming town of St. Michael’s on Maryland’s Eastern Shore served as the backdrop. Deemed “the town that fooled the British,” this hidden gem was a one-time hub of shipbuilding, maritime activity, and commerce. Today, it attracts DC-area locals and tourists alike. 

Yamaha generously put us up at the Inn at Perry Cabins, one of the most sought-after getaway locations here in the Mid-Atlantic. In fact, the opening wedding scene of Wedding Crashers (2005) was shot there. Its location on the Miles River, which feeds into the Chesapeake Bay, provided ample opportunities to test outboard motors and pursue elusive striped bass. 

Over the course of two days, attendees learned about boating basics, outboards, and the newest industry trends.

Learning Boating Basics

Yamaha Outboards specializes in durable, reliable motors for all boating conditions. 

After arriving in St. Michael’s, Maryland, we gathered in a conference room to hear from their corporate partners. They gave us a rundown of products we would be testing. I found this session to be helpful since my boating knowledge is elementary at best. 

We learned about the transformation of the American boating experience first and how it’s evolved over the years. The average cost of a boat, one presenter noted, went from over $50,000 to well over $300,000 in total cost during the 2007-2017 period. Historically, value/entry boats were in high demand by consumers, but a noticeable shift led boat enthusiasts to seek out mid-market and premium watercraft. 

The presenters talked at length about their F300 motor, which sets the standard on offshore power. It’s the second best selling motor on the market. They also discussed their XTO Offshore motor, one of the most powerful and popular models on the market—with newer models boasting a direct injection and integrated electric steering system.

Attendees also heard from Matthew Smith, Communications Manager at Yamaha Marine, on the latest policy initiatives being advocated in their new sustainability campaign, Yamaha Rightwaters. It’s aimed at improving habitat, controlling invasive species, supporting sound scientific research, and promoting clean water initiatives. 

Media members also learned about the ancient practice of celestial navigation at sea from Hans “Jochen” Hoffmann of the Maryland School of Sailing and Seamanship. While electronic navigational tools have greatly enhanced the boating and sailing experience, these tools are greatly susceptible to interference. That’s where knowledge of celestial navigation can come in handy, the presenter noted.

The informational session concluded with a Garmin representative discussing the latest product offerings and how our group would test them firsthand on the water. He discussed how their Global Positioning Systems (GPS) uses trilateration to pinpoint exact location coordinates when in use. 

Testing Outboards

The next morning, our group tested various outboard motors retrofitted for boats like the Grady-White Canyon 326 Center Console, the Pursuit S40,  the Sportsman Masters 267 OE, and the World Cat 320. 

After testing watercraft, we were Miles River-bound to catch some Chesapeake Bay striped bass. 

All media members were paired with local captains. My group, consisting of Outdoor Sportsman Group’s Emily Kantner and another blogger from Ohio, fished with Captain Nick Clemente of the Ocean City, Maryland-based Get Sum Charters

Captain Clemente doesn’t regularly guide out that way and told us, in jest, our party was obligated to catch fish and best the rival captains. Challenge accepted. 

Initially, fishing conditions were less than satisfactory. We had all the right equipment and tackle to reel in some fish but they failed to cooperate. The weather wasn’t budging either. 

After a location switch, the bite miraculously picked up. One striper was caught. Then another. Eventually, my turn came to reel in and release a juvenile striped bass. Score! 

After the trip, our fellow writers revealed to us they got skunked. But they shrugged it off and laughed. 

The Future of Boating 

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) notes the marine economy, including boating, accounted for $373 billion of the U.S. economy’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018. 

While boating is enjoying some growth, the industry admits it’s difficult to entice Millennials. Despite enjoying boating like their parents, Millennials aren’t as inclined to make boat purchases. That should cause alarm as the age group, my generation, is expected to soon comprise a quarter of the U.S. population.

As a result, boating could be at risk of sailing into the sunset one day. That would be a travesty.

But such a fate is easily avoidable.

The new “Get On Board” campaign from Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) and NMMA is proof the industry is serious about expanding their reach. So far, their efforts appear to be working. 

Need an excuse to get your boating on? Here it is. Tap into your blue mind and put yourself at ease.