The Palm Beach International Boat Show is under way this weekend, and it kicked off with a panel of experts talking about some of the issues the marine industry needs to address, including this one:
"How do we get more young people into boating?"
A very good question. It's not because it's not popular -- evidence the boat jams around Peanut Island on any given weekend, or the flow of craft on the IntraCoastal. It's not because it's not fun -- cruising, fishing, partying or just relaxing -- it's the thing to do in Florida. I'm no industry expert -- far from it -- but for my money, the main reason is ... just that: Money.
Boating on just about any scale is not an inexpensive pursuit. Beyond the initial cost of the boat, there's the maintenance, and the fuel. The insurance, and the licenses. And when it's not in use, there's the even bigger headache of where to park it. Marina slips aren't easy to come by. Dry storage, not cheap either. HOAs and COAs restrict parking them in yards or parking lots.
While Millennials may be the generational advertising darlings du jour, most of them I know wouldn't exactly be described as flush. Many still live with mom and dad, by necessity. They would be hard-pressed to buy a paddle board or kayak, much less a boat.
I suspect they are good candidates to join one of those boat clubs, and let someone else take care of the upkeep. Or get lucky and have a friend or relative who owns a boat, and doesn't mind sharing.
Answers may not be easy, but there are a lot of smart people, both young and old, working on the problem. Boating is too important to the state's economy not to. Not to mention the lure of all that beautiful blue water that virtually surrounds us.
Yes, I know it's spelled like "Jerry." No, I don't know why it's pronounced "Gary."