Watercraft for 2014 boating season

Stand-up paddleboards are a popular new way to explore the local waterways.
Stand-up paddleboards are a popular new way to explore the local waterways.

May 8th, 2014

By Phyl Newbeck
Observer correspondent
In Vermont, we’re blessed with one Almost Great Lake and many other smaller bodies of water. What better way to get out and enjoy those ponds, lakes and rivers than on a boat? While some things in the boating world never change, others do, so here are some trends to look for in 2014.
Mike Lucas, sales manager at Fox Marine in Colchester, said one major trend in the world of boating is the return of the two-stroke motor, which was invented in 1930. EPA regulations regarding emissions caused manufacturers to switch to four-stroke motors — quieter and more fuel efficient but lacking the stamina, power and muscle of the two-stroke variety. Recently, companies have begun manufacturing a cleaner version of the two-stroke motor.
Fox carries the Evinrude brand. “We have people who owned the older models and then bought a four-stroke engine, but now are going back,” said Lucas. “We’re seeing the two-stroke engine making a comeback.”
Among two-stroke converts are towing agencies, Vermont State Troopers and recreational users. “It’s a fantastic product,” said Lucas. “Customers love it because it puts people back into the older style engines which they love.”
Lucas said smaller two-stroke engine boats that are 14 to 16 feet long retail for $10,000 to $18,000, including a trailer. Larger boats run between $20,000 and $40,000.
Fox Marine also sells a number of fiberglass day boats. Lucas noted that, for a time, people seemed to aspire to larger boats, but these days customers are looking for bow riders (boats with open bow areas and extras seats in front of the helm) in the 22- to 27-foot range. “The beauty of something like that is it’s almost like having a small condo on the lake,” he said. “We have one of the most beautiful bodies of water in the Northeast in Lake Champlain and there’s so much you can do on it.”
Bow riders in the 18- to 21-foot range go for $25,000 to $45,000, while the larger boats can cost as much as $80,000. “People just want to cruise up and down the lake,” Lucas said. “You can hang out and bring a dozen people with you. Since many people grew up fishing either on Lake Champlain or elsewhere, this is an opportunity to share their passion with their children and grandchildren.”
If you’re looking for something with a little less horsepower, Bruce Hill Yacht Sales in Shelburne has two new sailboats for Vermonters to try this summer. President Jeff Hill noted that last summer the company sold a number of J/70 boats, which are geared toward “performance sailing.” The 23-foot boat, which can be trailered and provides what Hill calls “an athletic sailing experience,” starts at $44,600.
Another new boat for sale at Bruce Hill is the Tartan Fantail. At 26 feet and with a starting price of $88,000, the Fantail is significantly less expensive than some of the larger Tartan yachts in stock. The boat is for day use and has minimal accommodations, but can be customized to make it suitable for weekend outings. One major innovation of the Fantail is that it has an electric outboard motor made by a company called Torqueedo, although Hill said a regular gas motor can be substituted.
Some people are happiest when the only power involved in navigating the water is their own muscle power. At Umiak Outdoor Outfitters in Stowe, Retail Manager Joe Henry said the trend is toward lighter boats. By using a lighter weight plastic, Eddyline is able to make a 35-pound kayak which is durable, stable and economical at $995. Lighter boats exist, but they are made with more expensive material like Kevlar or carbon fiber and can cost upwards of $2,000. “It’s our number one selling kayak for people who care about weight and stability and don’t want a bargain basement boat,” Henry said.
Kayaks continue to outsell canoes at Umiak, despite the fact that canoes can be very light and are more versatile. However, the biggest new category is the stand-up paddleboard or SUP. Henry said more and more SUPs are being used for fishing, with some even having rod holders as part of their structure. A recent demo day for SUPs had 500 people in attendance, which is more than Umiak has had for any other demonstration. Boards generally sell for between $700 and $1,400. Inflatable SUPs, which can be stuffed in a backpack and inflated on site, are also becoming popular.
In North Ferrisburgh, the folks at Adirondack Guideboats are known for timeless classics, but even they have a few new items in stock. Co-owner Justin Martin said one of their most popular boats is a sturdy Kevlar Vermont Fishing Dory, which weighs only 80 pounds, but can hold up to 700 pounds. “It’s made for general use like a canoe,” said Martin, “but it’s way more efficient because you can row it by yourself as well as with others. You could put a small motor on it but it’s so easy to row, you wouldn’t want to.”
Martin said the boat travels an average of six to seven miles per hour and can easily fit two adults and two small children with seats in the bow, stern and center. The cost is $4,480, with another $450 to $600 for oars.
Martin said customers have been requesting even lighter boats, so they have recently started carrying a 12-foot solo pack boat which weighs only 34 pounds. The solo boat costs $2,400 with another $300 to $400 for oars. Despite the fact that it’s one of their newest items, it has been selling quite well among those looking for some solitude on the water.
It doesn’t matter what kind of watercraft you’re looking for — self-propelled or motor, timeless classic or modern construction – there are plenty of options available.

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