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Old 29-10-2018, 19:10   #1
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Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

There was a lively debate in a recent thread [1] where a younger cruiser was looking for other younger cruisers to join together in discussion. The nagging question popped up: WHERE are all the younger sailors? There was quite a banter involving differences between millennials and baby boomers, distribution of wealth, modern distractions, and other factors resulting in far fewer sailors these days...

Alas… who remembers all those thousands of BOATS manufactured back in the day?
The whole discussion reminded me of those Glory Days of sailboat production… the 1970s and 1980s. (perhaps the 60s too?) The timely combination of fiberglass technology, disposable income, leisure time and the oil crisis created a peak in sailboat production. The king of the every-man sailboat, Catalina Yachts, had churned out almost 25,000 sailboats per decade by 1990. Since then, they have averaged maybe 3,000 / decade, with dozens of competitors going under. [2][7]
If you examine more recent sailboat production data, the downward trend continues. In North America, the year 2000 saw more than 20,000 sailboats produced annually. In 2017 there were only 7000. [3] The number of active sailboat manufacturers in North America has dropped by 1/3 in the last 10 years. It's at 92 now. [6]

Sure, the people-question is still a good one, though probably beaten to death in the mentioned thread.[1] One thing discussed was the point that young people are not as likely to be DIY types as their parents, and these skills are usually important to be successful cruisers. [1][5] I had to laugh at that. Sadly, this lack of DIY skill (and interest) rings true for my millennial kids. (Ok, small sample size)
Here are some better people-stats...
In the 1970s, there were 12M people in North America who sailed at least once per year. [3] Now the number is barely 1/3 of that, and unchanged for the last decade in spite of population growing 7%. The number of “core” sailors (8+ sails/yr) is declining each year. It seems that aging baby boomers are turning to power boats and millennials are finding other things to do altogether. [3]
But hold on. This recent assessment of younger people without time for sailing sounds oddly similar to a 25 year old LA Times article from 1992, lamenting the “growing indifference by time-pressed yuppies to the rigorous sport of sailing “. [7] (remember the dreaded “yuppies”?) This trend must not be a recent one, after all. Just replace “yuppie” with “millennial”.

I think the sailboat market downward forces are nuanced, indeed. Articles about the steady sailboat production decline don’t usually mention the fact that those glory decades of sailing late last century leave modern purchasers with a huge number of old (but floating) used boats to choose from.
Whatever the reasons, the downward trend in sailboat manufacturing seems like it is continuing. Another study from 2016 separated the 30’-59’sailboat market (cruiser size) from the much greater <20’ hull numbers for North America. Adding up imports and domestic production totaled less than 500 boats for 2015 vs 1600 boats in 2008. Graph attached. [6]

Perhaps we are now in the Glory Days of USED cruising sailboats.
One wonders, though: Where is the bottom of the sailboat production curve, trending downward for three decades?
A dying breed?


[1] Young People Cruising
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catalina_Yachts
[3] https://www.sun-sentinel.com/busines...217-story.html
[4] https://boatingindustry.com/top-stor...ating-history/
[5] https://www.boatus.com/magazine/2017...ying-boats.asp
[6] https://www.sailingworld.com/sites/s..._2015_data.pdf
[7] Sales Sinking at Catalina Yachts : Recession: Despite a 35% drop, the Woodland Hills company may be able to ride out the poor economy while other firms founder. - latimes
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Old 29-10-2018, 19:21   #2
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Re: Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

Things change.

Rock climbing and hiking are now more fashionable. Certainly take less money.

The whole concept of "a job" is getting outmoded for a huge and ever-growing segment of the population, never mind "career" and forget about "retirement".

And the rates of changes keep accelerating!

Why would you expect stable trends for any aspect of society?
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Old 29-10-2018, 19:25   #3
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Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

Lots and lots of things are dying off.
General Aviation, even water skiing. Back when I was a kid the local waterways were full every weekend of people water skiing there was a ramp, Iím sure clubs etc.
Town is now twice as populous, but youíll find no one on the lake on weekends, a few jet skis maybe and some fishermen, but thatís it.
Things that are hard that take time and skills to learn, just are not popular anymore, if it canít be done instantly, itís not worth doing.
Even the jet skis, used to be they were only stand up models, and had to be on plane to have any stability, they werenít all that difficult to ride, but they did take some time to learn, about like a bicycle.
Now the only ones you see are small boats, you sit on them when they arenít moving and they are stable, anyone can ride, instantly, no skills necessary.

Sailing, and cruising is hard, it takes a lot of time to master, and is a lot of work.
People donít want that, they want instant gratification, if you canít do it first try, well then they arenít interested.

The money is there, there isnít any less spendable income than there used to be, just now you have to have satellite TV, multiple I devices, multiple data plans, a big SUV, and you do nothing yourself, you donít mow your own grass, fix your own sink, change your own oil, Women have their finger and toe nails done.
By the time you pay for all of that, there isnít much if any left, and if there is, you spend it on an Apple Watch, or a new phone.
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Old 29-10-2018, 19:34   #4
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Re: Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

True. A good example is drones vs radio control.

Drones are easy, fly themselves, RC much more difficult. Drones sell like crazy, RC is dying.
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Old 29-10-2018, 19:35   #5
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Re: Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

I think a lot of these assumptions are off. Do people really think there was a time when the average cruiser was in their 30-40s?

"Van life" is HUGE with younger generations. This is a large group of adventurous explorers who prefer a slightly nomadic existence. That SHOULD fit well with the boating lifestyle.

The reality is that boating is geography constrained to the coasts almost exclusively. Add to that the fact that boats wear parts at a significantly higher rate meaning significantly higher costs than vans. Once you own a van, you can find ways to park it for free. Once you own a boat, you have a new form of rent in the form of marina fees or the like.

Additionally, many van lifers can still earn income via internet connection and this is a much trickier hoop to jump through on the water.

The difference in interest is largely limited by finances as older people simply have much more time and disposable income.

Finally, while van life can fit the lifestyle of a mountain biker, rock climber, snowboarder, or any one of hundreds of hobbies, boat life is more limited in general to water sports.
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Old 29-10-2018, 19:35   #6
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Re: Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

Quote:
Originally Posted by john61ct View Post
Things change.
Rock climbing and hiking are now more fashionable. Certainly take less money.
Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
Lots and lots of things are dying off.
General Aviation, even water skiing. Back when I was a kid the local waterways were full every weekend of people water e was a ramp, Iím sure clubs etc.
Town is now twice as populous, but youíll find no one on the lake on weekends, a few jet skis maybe and some fishermen, but thatís it.
Kiteboarding seems like it's on the rise.
Waterskiing seems to have jumped the shark.
Wakeboarding is still strong where I live.
I (selfishly) don't really mind that sailing interest has decreased... all the more room for me. I just wonder out loud how much more it will dwindle...
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Old 29-10-2018, 19:36   #7
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Re: Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

Sailing to this coming up generation is what horseback riding became to the car driving one - a fringe, somewhat peculiar and definitely not needed for a fullfilling life activity. How many of us can just mount and ride a horse once in a while, never mind owning one for our fun and pleasure?

As we get into driverless cars mode full speed, 30-40 years from now only old geezards will be asking on driving forums similar questions. ))
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Old 29-10-2018, 19:47   #8
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Re: Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

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The difference in interest is largely limited by finances as older people simply have much more time and disposable income.
Well, sure, but this was also true in the 1970s and 1980s yet there was an order of magnitude more sailboats sold per year back then. The financial answer must be part of it, sure... but perhaps there was another reason to go sailing in those days? Was there more of a romanticised notion of sailing back then?
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Old 29-10-2018, 19:50   #9
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Re: Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

In a nutshell, yes a dying breed. Worldwide, Google Trend data shows that interest in down to 25% of what it was in 2004. Most english speaking countries are better, but the US is down to 33% of what it was. Trending other outdoor activities, they are not down nearly as much as sailing. The cost, complexity, and work to maintain a cruising boat is a pretty high hurdle. Easier to play Really Bad Chess on my iPad.
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Old 29-10-2018, 19:56   #10
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Re: Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

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The reality is that boating is geography constrained to the coasts almost exclusively. Add to that the fact that boats wear parts at a significantly higher rate meaning significantly higher costs than vans. Once you own a van, you can find ways to park it for free. Once you own a boat, you have a new form of rent in the form of marina fees or the like.
Well, you are forgetting one important point: to sail you actually need to know how to sail. Even with a powerboat you still need to know some basic navigation anyhow. A van ... just stick to the right lane (unless in UK or conquered lands), and know how to drive. That's it.

The entry price of sailing is higher. It actually requires you to know a LOT of stuff. That's what makes it enciting to me and others. But not everyone
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Old 29-10-2018, 21:33   #11
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Re: Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

The main factor is air travel in my opinion.

A mate of mine got a round the world flying ticket.
2200 euros.
13 stops in 12 countries over a 12 months period.
Only condition is that he had to go west all the way.

It is :
- safer
- faster
- cheaper
- not sea restrained
- way more flexible
- has no skill requirements

Sailing is now for sea lovers or bored rich people.
I know it is selfish but I am pretty happy that sailing, especially cruising, has remained a niche and that there are still unspoiled places to explore.
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Old 29-10-2018, 21:54   #12
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Re: Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

Only as long as you canít fly there
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Old 29-10-2018, 23:00   #13
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Re: Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

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I know it is selfish but I am pretty happy that sailing, especially cruising, has remained a niche and that there are still unspoiled places to explore.
That's similar to my thinking. I remember reading here that Jim and Ann Cate had found a pristine island paradise that was not listed in cruising guides. I think they told a few friends (could have it wrong) and then the crowds came.

We also have a couple of hidden gems documented only in the log books, complete with coordinates. Maybe we should start a "blue-web" and trade these secrets? Kinda like sailing back upwind to spend cyclone season in the Marquesas. I've said too much already...
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Old 29-10-2018, 23:57   #14
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Re: Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

In my experience, there are more boats cruising now than 30 years ago. The big difference is that the average age of the owners is higher. Also the boats seem much bigger and more comfortable.

Actually, cruising is not expensive if you have a small boat and are in for adventure. Used boats have become MUCH cheaper. And a Vega is as good a cruising boat today as she was in the 70s. But now you can find a nice one for 5000$.
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Old 30-10-2018, 00:14   #15
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Re: Cruising Sailboats: a Dying Breed?

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Perhaps we are now in the Glory Days of USED cruising sailboats.
One wonders, though: Where is the bottom of the sailboat production curve, trending downward for three decades?

Hi,


I've often wondered about this topic. Especially at the beginning of a new season here in Chicago. Each spring, it seems we lose 5% of the moorings in Monroe Harbor Chicago. This year, the harbor eliminated all moorings in the south harbor and squeezed all boats into the north side of the harbor. I figured it was just anecdotal data but your post triggered me to finally find out.




After reading your post I tried to find the total amount of yearly registrations for cruisers (boats 30-59 feet - just an arbitrary cut-off, I mean no disrespect to cruisers whose boats are less than 30, I simply saw this range used by the industry organization in one of their studies) for the last twenty years. As you highlighted in your post, production is down, but lots of used sailboats are around. One of the problems with using production data to figure if cruisers are a dying breed is that, even if yearly production is decreasing, the number of cruisers could continue to increase [at least for some time], if the longevity of boats is increasing).




Unfortunately, I could only find that number for all sailboat sizes not just that for sailboats 30-59 feet.


According to the information I found, the number of sailboat registrations has been more or less flat for twenty years.


In your research, were you able to find the number of registrations for 30-59 foot sailboats over the last few decades?


Of course, even finding the number of 30-59 foot registrations across time will not tell us the age of the owners and whether or not cruisers are a dying breed but it's a start.


edit: the attached is not based on registrations. It is simply coast guard data and I imagine heavily favors small sailing craft. I could only find registration data for 2015 and 2016. Registrations were 110 thousand and 107 thousand, respectively.
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