Monday, March 11, 2013

Ohio recreational boating fleet just keeps getting bigger and better

For the fourth consecutive year the number of Ohio boat registrations reached a record high, totaling 435,310 vessels of all kinds. 

That figure sails around the previous record of 426,674 vessels registered with the Ohio Division of Watercraft in 2011, officials with the agency say.

Also such registrations include all classes of recreational boats, including powerboats, jet-propelled personal watercraft, sailboats and manually-propelled boats that include canoes, kayaks and rowboats.

Among the numbers is another record. Included in the total are 107,671 canoes and kayaks. That figure represents an increase of 9,978 from the previous record of 97,693 reported in 2011.

And last year’s hand-powered class is more than double the 50,804 non-motorized canoes and kayaks that were registered in Ohio in 2002, said Watercraft Division spokesman John Wisse.

“Much of this continued increase in boat registrations, we believe, is due in large part to a growing popularity of canoeing and kayaking,” Wisse said.

Wisse said also the number of jet-propelled personal watercraft (PWCs) increased from 43,108 in 2011 to 43,162 in 2012.

Thus, says Wisse, 10 percent of all registered pleasure boats in Ohio in 2012 were personal watercraft, typically lumped together by the commercially trademarked names Jet Skies and Waverunners.

When the watercraft registration totals are divided by county, the top five counties for 2011 were - once again - the top counties for 2012 (with 2011 figures in parentheses) were: Franklin - 27,873 (27,214); Cuyahoga - 24,800 (24,394); Summit - 19,970 (19,488); Hamilton - 18,724 (18,352); and Montgomery - 15,297 (15,188).

In Northeast Ohio, the 2012 boat registration figures (with their respective 2011 figures also in parentheses) were: Lake - 9,846 (9,550; Geauga - 6,417 (6,162); Ashtabula - 5,451 (5,195); Lorain - 11,535 (11,134); Erie - 6,414 (6,343); Media - 6,985 (6,718).

Of Ohio’s 88 counties, nine showed declines. They were Auglaize (down only one vessel), Crawford, Madison, Marion, Mercer, Miami, Paulding, Pickaway, and Putnum.

And two counties - Meigs and Vinton - saw identical boat registrations for 2011 and 2012.

The Watercraft Division likewise reports that an additional 6,872 boats - which include manually-propelled canoes, kayaks and rowboats - were registered last year by the 58 boat liveries operating in the state, Wisse said as well.

Ken Alvey, president of the Cleveland-based Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, said he was not surprised to see steady gains in boat registrations.

“Even with the recession that we’ve gone through people have grown tired of holding back, and now they know they have to move on,” Alvey said. “We’re also seeing a lot grandparents getting into boating and families returning to it as well. It’s encouraging to see people have that passion for sharing their boating experiences with family and friends.”

Alvey said also the used boat market is especially buoyed, to the point where “there’s a scarcity of good quality, late-model pre-owned boats.”

“During the recession there just weren’t as many boats manufactured and now there’s a shortage of them,” Alvey said. “So there are newer boats but there’s also a higher price tag, in part because of the new technologies being applied to them.”

One of the hot boat market items now are the pontoon-style and even tri-pontoon boats, Alvey said.
“Some of them can handle 300-horsepower outboard engines, and don’t be surprised if you see these big boats on Lake Erie, too,” Alvey said.

For a complete county-by-county boat registration breakdown for the past three years, visit

-- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn
Twitter: @Fieldkorn

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