Boating becomes popular activity during COVID-19 pandemic
Orleans Boat World & Sports owner Marc Savage helping Andre Jette and Monica Clayton shop for a boat. Ottawa, ON. July 13, 2020. (Tyler Fleming / CTV News)
OTTAWA -- As Ontario moves towards Stage Three of the COVID-19 reopening plan, many families continue to choose pandemic-friendly activities and boating seems to be a popular choice.
And with more families looking for fun on the water, it’s helping some businesses stay afloat.
The summer is heating up and people wanting to get outside and enjoy the sun are floating new ideas to help them cool off while staying safe and keeping physical distance. Boating has become a popular choice.
At Orleans Boat World & Sports sales have been anything but sinking. Whether you’re looking to buy a spacious pontoon boat for you and your bubble, a high-speed bow-rider for water skiing, tubing and wakeboarding or an aluminum fishing boat for you and your buddy hoping to make the big catch, owner Marc Savage has them all, or had them. Many of the boats are sold out. He says people have been pouring through the doors, wanting to get on the water.
“They’re seeing their holidays for the summer or whatever they had planned go away so their saying well let's find something to do with the family,” says Savage. “It’s been absolutely busy; very, very busy ... I’ve had the business here for 14 years and it’s been our best month of June ever on record definitely May and April were the slowest but we definitely made it up in June.”
Accessories like tubes, water skies, wakeboards and life jackets have also been flying off the shelves. The business of boating has been good.
As boats cruise out of stores, they need a place to go and marinas can be a good choice, if you can find a spot. Along the Rideau River, The Manotick Marina on Rideau Valley Drive North offers in-water dockage, which is at near-full capacity as well as launch-on-demand services. Owners can store their boat in the yard and call ahead to have their boat launched into the water. Like many marinas, you can also drive your boat there and launch it yourself for a fee.
Boats do require time, maintenance and care and the costs can be expensive but if you still feel the need to climb aboard and don the captain’s hat, there are options available, and one is called The Freedom Boat Club.
The idea is straightforward, to deliver a hassle-free recreational boating experience. Sterling Bown is the owner of the Ottawa hub, located at Hurst Marina on River Road. The club takes care of everything, including insurance, all you need is a pleasure craft licence and you must be 21 and over. You can then book, board and boat.
“We train everybody whether they’re a seasoned boater or a rookie doesn’t matter you go through our training which is an on the water classroom and a minimum of four hours,” says Bown. “We take a lot of expense of owning a boat we pay everything once our member joins they pay a one-time fee to join and a monthly fee to maintain their membership besides that the only other cost they incur is the fuel cost at the end of the day.”
The boating boom has also seen a bump in Bown’s business. Last year he had one full-time and one part-time employee, this year he’s added three more full-time staff members. He’s also going to be adding to the fleet. Currently there are six boats and more will be joining in the coming weeks.
Currently there are pontoon boats, deck boats and bow riders. Membership executive Jamie Strahl says that flexibility, is what makes the program special.
“At the end of the day if you’re a boat owner you have one boat and that’s it,” says Strahl. “We’re sitting here on a living room on water in a 24 foot pontoon so today you might be going out with five kids you want that space to move around and then tomorrow you’re going out with your buddy and you want to fish or maybe you want to ski wakeboard you got some speed with some bowriders a Chaparral with 150 horsepower.”