Marinas and boating retailers are preparing for the start of the summer boating season in South Florida — if the weather cooperates.
Broward and Palm Beach counties are home to more than 77,000 boats, many of which will crowd the Intracoastal Waterway, nearby sandbars and the open Atlantic to enjoy the warm and hopefully sunny weather this upcoming weekend. Memorial Day weekend is usually a busy boating weekend for South Florida, said Mike Antheil, executive director with the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County.
“In Florida, people want to get on a boat whenever they can,” Antheil said. “Memorial weekend is a big weekend. Locals and people coming in from other counties will be out on the water.”
The crowded waterways are a sign that the boating industry is rebounding after weathering several tough years. Florida leads the country in number of new boats sold in 2011, according to data released by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Recreational boat sales in Florida rose by 34 percent last year to about $1.5 billion.
“Boats aren’t a necessity, but people want to be on them right now,” Antheil said. “That’s a leading indicator of good things to come.”
Lauderdale Marina expects to be busy with people coming in and out of the marina all weekend, said salesman Rusty Casteel. The marina sells fuel, which has been dropping in price, and bait, stores boats and is home to the15th Street Fisheries and Dockside Café, an eatery Casteel expects to stay busy all weekend long.
“People dock their boats and come in for lunch and dinner,” he said. “This is going to be a very busy weekend for us.”
West Marine stores, a boating supplies chain, expects strong sales days before the long weekend, said Erik Rimblas, the regional vice president for West Marine.
Historically, the summer is a slow season for the company, he said, although sales will rise around Memorial Day and Independence Day.
“Luckily we have two big boating holidays over the summer, where we see customers coming in before the weekend to get what they need to be on the water,” Rimblas said. The company has 10 stores in the tri-county area.
Daily Boat Rental, a recreational boat rental service in Deerfield Beach, expects to be completely booked up for the holiday weekend, said manager Jacquelyn Tyghem.
The company offers daily rentals and yearly lease programs on a fleet of 18 boats out of their location at Marina One. The yearly program cost is a one-time $5,999 fee. Daily rentals start at $350 for an 18-foot boat for half a day, which includes fuel.
“The spring and summer is our busiest time because that’s when there’s the best boating,” Tyghem said. “It has a lot to do with kids being out of school and families looking for something to do on the weekends.”
Neptune Parasail on Fort Lauderdale Beach is hoping for good crowds, as long as the weather is decent for parasailing, said owner Devin Taylor.
“We usually get a good mix of tourists and locals around this time of year,” Taylor said.
The company takes groups of six people at a time parasailing from their Hyatt Pier 66 location.