The Harbor Report: Why is business so slow?

It could just be me fighting through the ups and downs in today's marine industry marketplace, but as I run into work companions, it seems that most of us in Newport Beach look like we have just completed a triathlon.

As I look around the harbor, I notice many open moorings, which is strange because with the years of dredging, there are not that many moorings. They will be replaced and realigned, but when will the boats return?

Over my 25 years of yacht brokerage, I have never seen this many open slips in town.

Additionally, our local boat show has never been so thin as it has over the last two years. No new large boat dealers are flooring new boats. All the marine trade people have left the waterfront.

Local participation in 30- to 50-foot boating activities, such as sailing regattas and fishing tournaments, has never been so low.

What frightens me most is how will people ever be able to afford a 25- to 40-foot boat between the ages of 30 to 60 in Newport Beach?

My job takes me from San Diego to Santa Barbara almost on a monthly bases with an occasional showing outside the state and even the country. What I have observed is that slips are full in San Diego, Dana Point, Marina del Rey and Santa Barbara. New boat dealers are staying busy in these locations and in San Francisco.

Why is the marine industry so flat in the best harbor in the world? Is it because boaters are looking for better value in storage costs, shipyard fees, fuel costs and shopping price rather than convenience? It seems strange to me that we anted up and dredged our harbor and expect boaters to accept the higher costs of boating in Newport Beach.

A marina manager in San Diego said it best last week while I was checking out a gate key: "I have to thank you guys for sending me all this new business; here have a cookie."

That all said, I did notice this week a couple things that placed a short smile of hope on my face.

While at Basin Marine Shipyard, I saw a late-model Beneteau 34 arrive in town, and the J 122 TKO was having one of the best new racing bottoms I have ever seen being applied. While glancing around the Ardell marina, I noticed a Santa Cruz 70 has been added to our local fleet.

I am also looking forward to being one of the presenters for this year's Newport Beach High Point Series winner. The Balboa Yacht Club is fortunate to present the award to member Roy Jones and his crew aboard Tango Saturday night.

This J 133 came out of the blocks this year at full speed by winning the Midwinters and the first race of the 66 Series. She then sailed well in the Ahmanson and was able to hold back Amante end-of-season charge during the Gil Knudson and Argosy.

In an effort to increase participation within our harbor's PHRF racing fleet, the BYC and Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club are recognizing the winner of this event at their respected awards banquets. This, along with a change in venue by the Newport Harbor Yacht Club in the Ahmanson series, is slowly gathering momentum again. We had 37 local boats competing to be named Newport Beach's top PHRF boat.

Maybe next year when I again ask the city for eight annual parking permits at a total cost of $1,200 to be awarded to the winning crew of this event, they might be able to afford to give a little something back to our local harbor users.

LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.

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