Wheel of Fortune

Andy Adams

June 15, 2021

I can’t help but wonder where we will all land when the wheel of fortune spins this decade. Will we have the roaring twenties again? I’m thinking the boat business will, but with big changes.

COVID-19 came from nowhere to have a major impact on the whole world and boating has benefitted. I suspect we are in the biggest sales boom since the 1950s. The post-war baby boom was a biproduct by the World War two demographics and with many new large families and a thriving economy, there was a big demand for things to do in the summer back then too. That drove demand for boats and stimulated the rapid development of affordable and ever-larger two-stroke outboard motors as well as the development of both aluminum and fibreglass as revolutionary boat-building materials.   

I think the coming wave of electric motors will be more like a tsunami. 

For new boaters, the light, quiet and environmentally friendly electric motors will be a more comfortable entry point than a gasoline internal combustion in spite of how impressively powerful and quiet they have become. And the Canadian company Vision Marine Technologies is bringing out their 180 E, 180 HP electric outboard right now.

Light and powerful new battery technologies will make lugging Gerry cans of fuel a thing of the past. Just plug in overnight and go boating the next day. You may recall that BRP announced that they would offer electric versions of all their products in just the next few years. Imagine how convenient it would be to have a pair of PWCs for family and guests with almost no noise, no gas and possibly almost no maintenance!

It also occurs to me that the wheel of fortune brings both winners and losers. The likely cost and complexity of high horse power electric may still favour IC engines, but if the fickle finger of fashion points to the desirability of electric motor choices, those currently building and selling high-end boats that are equipped with twin gas 300s may find that sales start dropping.

Boat builders may need to develop smaller, lighter and possibly far more sophisticated boats for the electric motors. I’m thinking of the Candela foiling power boat as an example.

Marinas that currently do well with repair work, winterizing and storage, may find that electric power cuts into that revenue stream and those who still sell fuel on the water may see that business begin to decline.

It’s early days now, but I think this is a freight train barreling down on boating. We will need to be ready and willing to adapt in order to seize the opportunity. The wheel of fortune is already spinning.

Andy Adams – Editor

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