Random thoughts on the boating world

Published on May 11th, 2021

RCR Yachts CEO Don Finkle has been with the company since its inception in 1972, facilitating new and used boat sales. In this report he shares his observation of boater trends:


We have witnessed and lived with many changes over the years. Obviously, boat designs have evolved. The way people use their boats is different today and that has driven the changes in boat design. We see more people boating in shorter spurts, like an afternoon or evening instead of all day or all weekend, or a weekend instead of a week. Busy lives mean it is important that we can get underway and put away quicker. Boats set up for convenience get used more often.

Not only that, but who uses the boats is different now than when I started long ago. Back then it was mostly the head of household (almost always male) driving the purchase decision and time on the water. Family was less involved. That has flipped totally, and we see far more influence from the spouse and family as a whole. This is a very good thing.

Over the past year of the pandemic we have seen more boat usage in general and more boats being used by families, couples, and friends who they feel safe with. This is far from a local phenomenon and we feel it bodes well for the future.

The boat business is a bit of a non-conventional industry those outside often have a difficult time understanding. Why can’t we get this part? Why is it taking so long to get an answer from the factory or supplier?

The fact is this is really an overgrown cottage industry and there is still a lot done by hand, in small numbers, by a shrinking pool of suppliers and seasonally to boot. Our team gets frustrated at times but I remind them this is job security for the dealer as the builders and suppliers need boots on the ground to take care of the customer.

We hear some lament that “boats aren’t built like they used to be”. That is true but it is almost always for the better now. Boats are built with the technology and materials in place at the time, and those times have changed. When we attend a survey of a used boat we see firsthand the shortcomings of construction in play back then because that is what they had to work with.

One might note that today’s boats have less woodwork and infer that means lesser quality. In fact, most owners don’t want the maintenance that comes along with all that wood, and wood used as part of the construction process tends not to hold up so well over time (read water damage).

What strikes us as most important is the way design has evolved to better fit today’s typical boater. Everything stems from the design, an underappreciated aspect of any boat.

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