secondBefore the pandemic, Bruce Goodchild divided his time between Australia, his home country, and the far north of New Zealand, where his work and family are located. When travel restrictions prevented him from crossing the Tasman Sea, he decided to explore the waters closer to home, buying a boat of his own.
In November, Goodchild purchased a 60-foot-long wooden schooner. An avid sailor, he had his eye on the local yacht market in early 2020, but the emergence of the coronavirus focused his mind. “I thought, ‘I’m stuck here, this is one way I can spend my time.”
“For me, a ship was a good lifestyle change for the next several years as the dust settles with Covid,” he said.
Goodchild was not alone. A global boating boom has been reported in response to the pandemic. Travel restrictions and locked-in months have prompted people to pursue bucket list life goals or take up new outdoor hobbies, which has skyrocketed boat sales.
New Zealand Marine Industry Association said boat sales Since June they have doubled compared to the same period in 2019, more than offsetting a sharp decline driven by the pandemic from April to June. Enrollment in marine courses has also seen a rebound.
New Zealand has a consistently high rate of boat ownership per capita due to its extensive coastline, sheltered sounds, and island-studded harbors.
Blair Harkness, director of City of Sails Marine in Auckland, said the last few months had been the busiest he had seen in some 15 years of operation. After a quiet start to 2020, the surge in interest since about October, coinciding with the start of the summer cruise season, had been “quite extraordinary,” he said.
‘You have your own bubble on the boat’
Trailers, motorboats and catamarans were selling especially well, according to Harkness, but even yachts, often more labor intensive and skilled, had seen increased interest.
He attributed it to New Zealanders, who were prevented from vacationing abroad by border restrictions, who wanted to explore a new side of their country. “They have money to spend and they have recognized that going by boat is a very good way to do it … And of course the sea is a great playground.”
On the immediate departure of New Zealanders from the blockade in mid-May, the ships had the added attraction of being distanced, adds Harkness: “You have your own bubble on the ship.”
Boat brokers around the world have reported a sudden reversal of sluggish sales in early 2020. In the US, the National Marine Manufacturers Association said in May 2020 higher sales of new boats in a decade.
Simon White, founder of the global listing site TheYachtMarket, said he had seen a massive surge in interest since late April, reflecting what was reported by his worldwide network of brokers. The number of boat buyers visiting your site was 72% higher in October 2020 than the previous year. That interest went beyond idle lock escapism, with TheYachtMarket generating 65% more sales inquiries in October than the prior year.
Steve Thomas, co-owner of Nelson-based New Zealand Boat Sales, said the weeks of lockdown had focused people’s minds on how they wanted to spend their time.
Newly built ships, in particular, were doing dynamic trading, even at the higher end of the market. Thomas said 40 orders had been placed in one week for a new Seawind Catamaran, which is priced at $ 1.5 million. The demand was such that wait times were being shortened to years, further fueling the fear of missing something, Thomas said.
The global shift to telecommuting had also encouraged people to try a “totally different lifestyle.” “They want to try new things … You can buy a new 46-foot catamaran so you can buy a house and you are accessible with the Internet wherever you go,” Thomas said.
Gary Whatmough bought a 37-foot catamaran in October, with a view to working toward his dream of sailing the South Pacific once the Covid-related restrictions are lifted, and whether his partner can be persuaded to quit his job. “I want to go live on the ship, and she not so much. It’s just about avoiding that. “
They had started with the North Island, sailing four nights from Nelson to his home in Whangārei; then two weeks sailing through the Bay of Islands during Christmas. “The plan is to use it as much as we can,” says Whatmough.
Like properties, boat sales have been fueled by low interest rates, suggesting to Thomas that this flurry cannot go on forever. How long it will last is the million dollar question. It has to slow down this year, and a lot of that will be driven by the fact that there will be no boats to buy. “
Whatmough is more skeptical. “It makes me laugh how everyone says there are no boats for sale. I can tell you that almost all boats have their price. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism