DSN&A authors an internationally syndicated column entitled NATCHEZ ON THE WATERFRONT regarding marinas and recreational boating.
Natchez on the Waterfront
The Not Quite Post Pandemic Era – What to Do to Jump Start Boating
The pandemic has definitely changed the world and resulted in some kind of new normal for most of us – albeit a normal that keeps changing. The good news is that following the near total lockdown of this past spring, recreational boating has largely reopened throughout the world – for continuing, returning and new boaters, though the specific rules and approach differs depending upon localities. The water is still mystical and inviting, and has its own power to heal the pandemic’s everyday thoughts and concerns.
In this not quite post pandemic era there are many ways to help jump start recreational boating, but the key of course was simply being able to open. Once that hurdle was crossed, a number of things started falling into place.
A New Normal
Social distancing is the norm today and large gatherings are problematic at best and infectious at worst. Social events, camps, concerts, schools, and numerous other activities have been cancelled or closed down. Trips abroad or cross country, especially by plane, have largely been cancelled. But the new normal has also created a desire to end the feelings of isolation and confinement, and to get out and find safe avenues of enjoyment.
Some of the trends that are apparent are that many people have left urban areas for more removed locations, whether it be to second homes, actually moving, or just renting cabins for vacations. Significant portions of the population are now working from home and looking for ways to “escape the pent up feeling” and “find relaxation.”
Getting out on the water is a super avenue and is being seized upon. As put by a Florida woman quoted in a recent New York Times article on the state of boating in the pandemic, who had just gone out this May and bought her first ever boat (a Tiara Sport 38 LS – not too shabby for a first boat), “If you go to an island, it seems like there’s no coronavirus. And the boat itself is like an island. You’re separated from the stress of life.” People are looking for escape, and boat sales since the lockdown for the most part have been booming. The same is true for the RV industry – with many dealers noting sold-out inventories and long waiting lists.
Many are taking funds set aside for family vacations and trips and using them to enter or go bigger into boating, whether it be to buy or rent.
And people are looking for the marinas to be clean, safe, friendly and providing amenities ranging from sales to rentals to service. The friendlier the staffs are the more people are utilizing their services. Marinas are using the web and social media in an increasing manner to entice people back to boating and let people know how they are keeping their facility clean and safe, including the use of rentals. A picture is worth a thousand words and action pictures of enjoyment are now being widely used and continually being updated with new ones, whether photos of folks sitting in the stern of a boat having a snack or drink, to tubing, to sailing through the waves, to a skier or wakeboarder, to catching the one that did not get away. Providing those pictures to the local paper and media can further add to the exposure and help bring old and new customers into your facility.
While the traditional regional and national boat shows for new and used boats have most all been cancelled, including most recently and notably the sudden cancellation of September’s Cannes Yachting Festival as well as November’s Metstrade 2020 in Amsterdam, the marinas and dealers have come up with alternatives ranging from virtual shows with inventory being more prominently displayed as well as with detailed descriptions and pictures and arranging safe by appointment only local boat showings. The response suggests these efforts have been extremely effective. Those who offer rentals from jet skis to kayaks, sailboats, pontoons, houseboats, fishing boats and all sorts of other craft big and small not only are displaying their offerings but also communicating that the units are cleaned and made safe after each use, giving one a sense of security for using a fun outlet. And the rental market in many areas has also taken off. Again the emphasis is clean and safe, and by appointment only is stressed.
Some marinas have offered free start-up checks for their customers, making sure the boats start and are fully operational after putting them in the water. As one marina operator said, “It is amazing how well this has gone over in getting owners back into their boats.” Others have offered various online or call in advance provisioning options, from nominal to full meals, depending upon the facility’s resources and customer desires. Deep cleaning and disinfecting services have become popular offerings at many marinas.
Again the emphasis is making it safe, easy and inviting to go boating.
What people are seeking is that boating is offering a way of getting out for a fun change of pace as well as a family activity.
The trend has been a significant increase in boats sales across the board in almost all sectors and an overall significant return to boating. Boat sales in terms of specialty boats have far outpaced supply. Such segments as small bass boats have surged. Manufacturers of waterski and wakeboard boats have sold out their entire production. Inventories across most regions have gone from plentiful to empty showrooms. In some cases there are still also production problems with difficulty in obtaining parts for completing new builds – limiting some of the new boat sale potential but helping increase sales of older boats.
Lakes and rivers where one can find coves or other marinas to spend a night or two or more are great incentives for boat usage. Many facilities are offering maps with areas that are conducive for camping out while many, though not all, marinas are actively taking reservations for overnight visitations.
For the large lakes and coastal marinas, usage of the boats for day trips as well as cruising is up dramatically, though much of the cruising may be being kept somewhat closer to home due to various travel and quarantine restrictions. Sailing and cruising the waters to other marinas or coves and other points of destination provides a significant change of pace.
If you have a restaurant and it’s up and running, make sure people know about it. Outside dining is definitely in, and what better place to do it than at the marina. A number of places are reporting up to hour-long waits for folks without reservations – and since reservations are the best way to avoid those waits, make sure customers know that reservations are available and encouraged, especially if you did not take them prior to the onset of this new normal.
The common thread for marinas and dealers are back to basics – make it easy, and fun. As one operator said, “The more we can do to make it easy and safe for the customer, the more the boats are used, the more they use our services, from the soda machine, to ice, supplies, food and, even additions to or repairs to the boats.”
The more hassle free the greater the enjoyment. Providing pointers on where the fish are running, tides and water temperature, weather forecasts, other restaurants on the water, to whatever else is happening adds to the pleasurable mindset. And boaters keep in touch with each other and love to tell others what a great time they had ... in detail. Such energetic and descriptive recountings are contagious … in a good way.
So let’s all help beat the pandemic and provide clean, safe, and inviting boating opportunities. Now it’s off to go waterskiing and then, if the winds come up in the afternoon as predicted, some sailing as well!
Natchez on the Waterfront
Marinas and Aquaculture
Aquaculture or Aqua Culture – that was the dilemma we faced in the office for this article. The former would focus on the actual word and what’s happening in efforts to farm the sea, the latter on the culture of marinas and boating. In the end, while leaning more towards the literal versus the pun, it’s become a bit of a mix – along with reserving the right to focus on the boating lifestyle at a later date!
The fact of the matter is that at the moment (and not the Covid-19 moment but the more general “moment”) there is a whole lot going on in the world of aquaculture, and plenty happening in the world of marinas, but not a whole lot marrying the two – and that’s kind of too bad, though there are some notable exceptions.
Some 20 to 30 years ago there was a bit of a push to try incorporating mussel and/or oyster aquaculture as part of the marina, including with the marina’s floating docks serving dual purpose – both providing access to the boats and suspending the mussel or oyster cages below the floats. Cedar Island Marina in Clinton, Connecticut, is one of the facilities that put in some of the biggest effort on this front. But while the theory was promising, the reality of trying to do this amidst the actual slips proved a bit problematic. The mussels would grow just fine, but the operational conflicts and the need to relocate the shellfish to certified waters for cleansing prior to harvest in most cases just did not work out.
One operation, albeit slightly different, that did work out and that really has stood the test of time is that of the Monterey Abalone Company (MAC). Founded in 1994, the MAC is located at the seaward end of the massive Municipal Wharf No. 2 in Monterey, California, just beyond the Monterey Municipal Marina. The company has a good size building atop the pier, but the real activity happens below it, where a network of catwalks below the pier deck but above the water allows workers to haul up and access the many cages suspended in the waters below. The abalone thrive in the shade of the pier along with the diet of kelp they are provided, the kelp gathered from that which is free-floating in the waters of the bay. Since the farm is located beyond the marina breakwaters, combined with the tides, currents and overall cleanliness of the northern California water, there is no need to relocate the abalone prior to harvest. Of course, it also doesn’t hurt that there are relatively few sources of abalone these days, and they are retailing theirs for $7 to $28 a piece, the small size yielding about 2 ounces and the large yielding about 6 ounces of actual meat. Makes lobster look cheap!
Next, we head north to Campbell River on Vancouver Island where two slips at the Hidden Harbor Condominium’s marina are used for a few weeks each year to raise about 160,000 salmon frye – growing them out a bit in the temporary nursery to give them a better chance at surviving in the wild. The annual effort was originally begun through a government fisheries program, and has proven so popular that even when the government funding ended, the residents found local sponsors to help continue it. The big reward for the residents (and other area fishermen) comes down the road when the grown salmon return to their adopted natal river, making for great fishing.
On the flip side, back in Connecticut, there is the cautionary tale of the Mohegan Tribe’s effort about 18 years ago to initiate a major oyster, clam and scallop project in eastern Long Island Sound. Their investment was substantial along with considerable favorable press praising their plans to bolster the shellfish industry, preserve the working waterfront, create jobs, etc. They even made arrangements with the Thames Yacht Club and several other facilities in the area to set up some working models of their system to help train their initial staff and get the ball rolling while they were negotiating the permit process. But after years of being bogged down in that process, with objections from multiple stakeholders, most notably other types of fishermen and waterfront property owners, they finally pulled the plug, ending the grand plans as well as their efforts at local marinas.
Fast forward to 2019 and the Hoopers Island Oyster Company, currently headquartered in Cambridge, Maryland, which also happens to be the location of the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina. Hoopers Island Oyster Co. was founded in 2010 and has been successfully growing and expanding ever since – with their success based on specially bred oysters and some pretty sophisticated aquaculture practices. What happened in 2019 is that Hoopers Island worked with the Hyatt to set up an exhibit within the hotel on the history and current state of oysters and aquaculture in the Chesapeake, along with a few of their special purpose oyster docks out in the water, tied up to the floats that lead to the marina slips, and complete with placards explaining what’s going on and at busy times (or when servicing the young oysters) a person on the docks explaining the operation. To top it all off and tie everything together, when you head to the hotel’s restaurants, they feature various Hoopers Island oysters on the menu. How great is that!
Both Hoopers and the Hyatt got lots of great press. The Hyatt and its marina got a feature that helps make it unique and set it apart from other facilities. Hoopers got to promote their business as well as the overall efforts to expand oyster aquaculture in the bay, and a fantastic opportunity to educate both the boating and land-based public on how raising oysters in the bay can improve water quality (each oyster filters about 50 gallons of water per day), while also creating jobs and local food – all without much disturbance to the natural environment, other users of the water, or the view. Those last bits can be particularly useful to Hoopers as public opposition and NIMBY (not in my backyard) perspectives are among the greatest hurdles to expanding oyster production in the Chesapeake and elsewhere – as we saw in the Mohegan case. Aside from fighting projects in the regulatory approval process, many waterfront property owners have bought the nearby shellfish licenses simply to prevent any shellfish operations from taking place. In the state of Virginia, for example, it’s been estimated that something like 60% of the existing shellfish licenses are owned by those with no intention of ever using them.
I get that … and I can assure you I’d be plenty concerned if someone came along and proposed an oyster farm in the middle of my favorite waterskiing area. But I really don’t see this as an us versus them situation, when there’s no reason we can’t work it out together.
And this is where aquaculture and aqua culture sort of come together. You see most boaters I know are used to solving problems and making efficient use of space. There no reason a bench can’t also be a locker, or a table turn into a bed.
Most boaters also possess some sense of exploration – heading out onto the water to see what’s out there. Seeking out the romance of all things nautical.
Go to the Brittany coast and chances are you’ll visit an old port where the tractors work the shellfish cages every day at low tide – and you’ll stop for lunch at a waterfront café or sample oysters from one of the market stalls right at the wharf where they’re unloaded. Head to Japan and you might marvel at the great lines of seaweed carefully being cultivated, often in the same harbor as the fisherina you are visiting.
One of the founders of Hoopers Island was/is a waterman, as was his father before him. He saw his way of life on the bay disappearing as overfishing and disease were wiping out the oysters and crabs the Chesapeake has long been known for, and he was determined to do something about it.
Here in my homeport of Mamaroneck, NY, an old shed at the municipal marina has been converted into a marine education center. It’s not terribly elaborate, but it has been a great means of introducing ‘children’ of all ages and other folks to the life and workings of the Sound, as well as all the life that can be found right within the harbor.
Cedar Island Marina did not continue its below the docks aquaculture program, but the Cedar Island Marine Research Center that came along with it continues to this day, and now includes a summer camp where 9 to 15-year-olds get to spend their days exploring and researching alongside marine biologists. In addition to getting the young and older excited about the marine environment and boating (a great accomplishment itself), the work they do has helped demonstrate how boating, aquaculture and the environment can happily coexist.
In the following Publications:
We are currently or have been published in,
US - MARINA DOCK AGE
Asia - ASIAN MARINE, BOAT ASIA, MARINA ASIA PACIFIC
Australia - MARINE INDUSTRY NEWS
Canada - MARINA NEWS
Europe - MARINA EURO-REPORT, EUROMARINA
French West Indies - ALL AT SEA
Hong Kong - AHOY!
Korea - KCOMIA'S MARINAS
Malaysia - BUILDING PROPERTY
Middle East - WORLD OF YACHTS
New Zealand – SEA SPRAY MAGAZINE
Portugal - NOTICIAS DO MAR
Puerto Rico - LaREGATA
Singapore - ASIAN MARINE, BOAT ASIA, RAFFLES
South Africa - LEISURE BOATING, CARAVAN PUBLICATIONS
Spain - SKIPPER REVISTA NAUTICA
Turkey - YELKEN DUNYASI
United Arab Emirates - SEASPORTS MAGAZINE
United Kingdom - MARINA MANAGEMENT INTERNATIONAL
THE WORLD OF YACHTS & BOATS and
Venezuela - CAZAYPESCA NAUTICA INTERNATIONAL.
Worldwide - FORE & AFT
2018 - 2019
September- What Customers Want Most
October- Pollution, Red Tide & Fish Kills - What Does It Mean to Marinas
November- Stimulating Traffic to Marinas?
January- Combining Maintenance, Operational and Capital Planning
February- Regulatory 101 - The Do’s and Don’ts of the Regulatory Process
March- Profit Making Ideas
May- Know Your Market
2017 - 2018
September- ADA Making It Work For You
October- Trends - Road Map For Recreational Boating - Let's Not Miss The Boat
November- All Mixed Up - Marinas Within Mixed Used Developments
January- Dry Stack V's In-Water
February- Managing Stormwater In a Meaningful Manner
March- Dredging & Relocation Of Dredge Materials
May- If You Had Three Wishes
2016 - 2017
September- Just Old Fashioned Service
October- Trends - Meeting Tomorrow's Challenges
November- Clean and Green
January- Glitz Sells - Substance Sustain
February- The Changing use of Boats
March- Marinas / Boaters / Online
May- In the Spotlight with Regulatory Views
July- Chains vs. Independents - the Yin-Yang
2019 - 2020
September- The Politics of Boating
October- Sea Level Rise/Climate Change - Dealing with Rising Waters
November- Wave Protection – Thinking Outside the Box and Making it Work for You
January- The Yin and Yang of Providing Maintenance/Repair/Refitting Services
February- Selling and Buying Facilities – Some Do’s and Don’ts
March- Retrofitting for the Future
May- Marinas and Aquaculture
2019 - 2020
September- The Not Quite Post Pandemic Era – What to Do to Jump Start