COAST CITIES — The eighth annual San Diego Yacht and Boat Show will cruise into the Sheraton Marina in Harbor Island July 26 to July 29.
For attendees, the four-day event is a chance to check out vessels of all sizes and also enjoy boating, scuba diving and stand-up paddleboarding lessons. For boating manufactures and retailers, it’s an opportunity to display their products and take advantage of an industry that finally seems to be enjoying a rising tide, even if it’s coming up slowly.
U.S. retail sales for recreational boats, accessories and marine services increased 6 percent in 2011, according to a report from NMMA (National Marine Manufacturing Association.) Boating participation jumped 10 percent compared to last year, contributing to the first upswing in boating sales since 2006.
“Pent-up demand for boats following years of diminished willingness to spend by consumers, improved credit availability for buyers and boating businesses, positive shifts in consumer confidence and an overall interest in the benefits of the boating lifestyle are steering the industry toward recovery,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president.
The national increase in sales has extended to San Diego County, said Dave Geoffroy, the executive director of the NMMA.
“Across the nation and in San Diego, even though it’s still shaky, people are more confident in the economy and boating,” he said. “It’s a dramatic difference from the last three or four years.”
As a result of a boating rebound, Geoffroy noted he expects around 6,000 people to attend the San Diego Yacht and Boat show this year, a 15 percent surge from last year.
With the exception of performance boats, which may not rebound soon due to high fuel costs, nearly all categories of boats are experiencing better sales, Geoffroy said. The uptick in sales has been led by affordable pontoon boats, according to Geoffroy. Pontoon boats, which are powered by a motor and consist of a platform that’s buoyed by two floating sides, are especially popular with fishermen and families on a budget.
“They’re very tranquil, like a floating patio,” Geoffroy said.
On the more expensive end, local yacht sales also saw a national uptick in sales, according to Geoffroy. Barrett Canfield, president of South Coast Yachts in San Diego, has experienced an increase in yacht sales this year, calling it “noticeable” and “exciting.”
“We only sold nine new yachts all of last year,” said Canfield, whose yachts will be featured at the boat show. “So far this year, we’ve sold 16 new yachts.”
Canfield primarily attributed the rise in yacht sales to an improved economy and better financing options for boat buyers. Consequently, he also said the demographic of yacht buyers is “a bit younger than three or four years ago.”
“It was a lot of seniors in the past who had stockpiled money and maybe weren’t hurt as much by the downturn,” he said. “Now there’s people in their forties looking into yachts.”
At the show, more than 100 boats, from jet skis and entry-level family cruisers to luxury motor yachts and sailboats, will be docked in the marina and parked on land for visitors to browse, board and buy.
Geoffroy said this year’s show aims to be more interactive than previous years.
Ages ten and over can learn to scuba dive in a heated pool. With scuba gear, changing rooms and hair dryers available, only a swimsuit is needed to participate. Another reason to get wet: There will be complimentary stand-up paddleboards, water toys, inflatable rafts and kayaks.
Novices and seasoned veterans alike can enjoy daily skills-building sessions. Courses include close-quarters powerboat handling, anchoring, coastal cruising and an introduction to sailing. Each session is $10 and reservations are recommended; advanced courses will be offered for a higher fee and include admission.
The San Diego Yacht and Boat Show will take place Thursday and Friday from noon to 7 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission is $12 for ages 13 and over, free for 12 and under and military personnel with an ID. Tickets can be purchased in advanced at sandiegoyachtandboatshow.com.