Friday, September 24, 2021

Boating boom continues: More details

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

It is boom time for marinas on Lake George. After COVID-19 created an uncertain spring, boat rental and sale demand skyrocketed.

“It’s so busy and there seems to be a lot more consistency this summer than in last five, 10, maybe even 15 years,” says Christina Brodie, marina supervisor at Yankee Boating Center in Diamond Point.

She said that in past years, rentals “would be sold out 75% of the summer.” This year, “we’ve been sold out probably every day. Hopefully it spreads out though the rest of the community.”

Waters Edge Marina general manager Lauren Waters Fitzgerald said customers are “lining up like it’s a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert.” One time, she says, “The first guy comes in at 2 o’clock in the morning. He sat in a chair until someone relieved him.”

Ms. Waters Fitzgerald says, “I’m working 19-20 hours a day. Literally….This morning I didn’t realize I hadn’t washed the conditioner out my hair until 20, 30 minutes later. Wow, I’m tired.”

The uptick is a welcome relief after the initial uncertainty created by COVID-19.

“We definitely were nervous,” said Matt O’Hara, owner of Freedom Boat Club, which is now situated at the former Dunham’s Bay Marina that the O’Haras purchased.

“Before marina and boat repair was [deemed Covid] essential there was a lot of concern. We’ve got a lot of boats and a lot of loans with the marina… and we’re more so worried about our staff, and our members too.”

Now, the tide has shifted. Mr. O’Hara says gasoline sales is a good metric.

He says, “We surpassed last year’s total gas sales on July 25th.”

Freedom Boat Club is a membership boat club; members make reservations to use the boats in the club fleet.

“Most of our membership comes from within a 45-minute drive,” said Mr. O’Hara.

He says the pandemic is driving people outside, that customers have told him “how much it has helped their mental state, their mental health to be outdoors.”

At Yankee Boating, boat sales also surged. “All of our used boats are completely sold. When a boat comes in on trade it’s sold before we get our hands on it,” said Ms. Brodie. “We have two or three new boats left in our sales fleet.”

With the increased business, come COVID-19 safety protocols. Marinas are sanitizing, requiring masks, and more.

At Yankee, “we don’t let people come inside anymore,” notes Ms. Brodie. At first she says she was worried the new restrictions would slow things down. But now, “The process actually streamlined how we run business here. People have been very respectful.”

People are “spending more time with their children,” said Ms. Brodie. “After 9/11 we saw an uptick in vacations up here. And I feel people are staying closer to home.”

At Waters Edge, Ms. Waters-Fitzgerald says masks are a must. “People need to be safe. I’m eyeballing ‘em.”

Mr. O’Hara says normally he uses the winter “marketing and adding new memberships. This year? “We may be sold out for next year by Labor Day.”

Copyright © 2020 Lone Oak Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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