As fall arrives, some boaters call it quits
By Dawn De Busk
NAPLES — Maine marinas basked in the boon of boating heaven this summer.
According to several marina owners, the fine weather in the Lakes Region during the 2012 boating season had a ripple effect. It brought a higher number of boat rentals, more boats out during the sunny days, and a small percentage of boaters that pulled out of the water one to two weeks earlier than usual.
Typically, the period around Columbus Day is one of the busiest times for the business owners who cater to boaters and their crafts. But, this year, as early as late August, some boat owners called it quits.
According to Jimmy Allen who owns the Naples Marina, his out-of-state customers are citing the reasons for storing their boats earlier. Those include having high-school-aged children starting fall sports, the price of gasoline, and the comfort of protecting boats that won’t travel again on the waterways until one of the weekends of the Fryeburg Fair.
“The people who come up every weekend or most of the summer — their kids are getting older, more active in high school sports. They are not coming up every weekend in the fall like they did when their kids were younger,” Allen said, of the customers who were putting boats in storage sooner than usual.
The weather from late June through late August — which could be summed up as sunny with very little rain — played a factor in boaters’ satisfaction, he said.
“They had a beautiful summer. They used the boat all summer long. They aren’t feeling like they need to get it in the water for that one last weekend,” said Jimmy Allen.
If the sunshine was synonymous with smiles, the Lakes Region scored a mouth corners up for local marinas.
According Long Lake Marina’s Sales and Marketing Director James Davenport, if this summer’s temperatures did not break records, at least boat rentals and personal boat usage did.
“It was great that we had the season we did. Everyone was kind of happier,” he said.
“It was tremendous. It was our best rental season ever going back to 1999 when we opened our doors,” Davenport said.
“This was our best sales year, our best rental year,” he said.
“All of our slips were full this summer. We have about 80 percent of our customers still in the water,” said Davenport.
“I would say a small percentage of boats are coming out sooner. But this summer, we had more boats in the water,” he said.
Down Route 302, at the Moose Landing Marina, owner Dan Craffey was impressed with the 2012 season.
“This summer was wonderful. We were way up, way up in boat rentals,” he said, adding that the number of boat purchases also increased. He said boat buyers included first-time owners as well as those upgrading or switching to bigger pleasure boats.
“We had a huge influx of people updating and getting larger cruisers,” he said.
“We deal with 80% of our business through tourism. Our customers had a great time this summer. Everyone was in a great mood. Everyone loved the rental pontoons. Everyone loved the lakes. Everyone loved the new bridge, and not having to wait for it to open,” he said.
“There were a lot of great memories made,” he said.
This week, Craffey and his crew were busy as they stored the boats whose owners closed the chapter on waterway recreation for the year.
However, the majority of the boats owners were not playing that card yet.
“September and October is great boating, with the foliage cruises. It’s almost like having the lake to yourself,” Craffey said.
“You’ve got bass tournaments, great bass fishing, great scenery,” he said.
“Yesterday (Monday) it was 70 degrees and a stunning day for boating,” he continued.
On Long Lake, Davenport agreed with the advantages to fall boating.
Many locals revel in autumn-time boating for the foliage and the peace and quiet, he said, adding the marina’s day slips still are getting constant use.
“We are open year-round because we rent snowmobiles. So, we are hoping for a great winter to follow a great summer,” Davenport said.