This is a copy of an article
at Sign-On San Diego. Dated 09/03/2011. As an example of the
current climate of things; we thought we would add this for those
out of the loop. Also, Please read our comments at the end. Thanx
The ships have sailed.
Just a few years ago, it was nearly
impossible to find a place to dock a boat in San
Diego County, with waiting lists at almost every marina.
Today, you can have your pick — that
is, if you can afford a boat.
“I never thought you'd be able to drive
through Shelter Island and see empty boat slips and retail
space,” said C.F. Koehler, president of Koehler Kraft, a local
boat repair company and marina.
With consumers' discretionary spending
dried up, it's not just marinas and boat dealers that are
struggling in the recession. Coastal companies that cater to
tourists and residents who desire to experience the sea are facing
troubled waters, too.
Business is down across the board for
harbor cruises, sport fishing
and scuba diving — drastically in many cases.
Water recreation may be an indelible part
of San Diego's culture, but it is also an important slice of the
economy. There are no hard numbers on how much these recreational
businesses bring in, but sportfishing alone is estimated to pump
in $50 million to the local economy each year, according to a
study commissioned by the Sportfishing Council.
One indication about how tough things are
along the waterfront is the decline in rent revenues for the Port
of San Diego. For the fiscal year that ended June 30, rent revenue
for harbor excursions was down 14.4 percent from the previous year
and rent revenue from marinas and sportfishing landings fell 2.4
percent and 4.5 percent, respectively.
As bad as those numbers are, many
companies are facing an ever grimmer reality.
Rich Sillanpa, president of Dive
Connections in Mission Bay, said his business has dropped by more
than 50 percent. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, the company
typically had as many as 12 excursions a week. This summer,
Sillanpa was fortunate to get four trips.
“This past weekend was the first time
we had all three boats go out,” he said. “Last year we had to
turn away people.”
It's no wonder that business is hurting
with budget-conscious customers trimming nonessential expenses
such as scuba diving or sportfishing.
That's certainly the case for Craig
Petersen of Phoenix. Petersen used to take biannual dive trips
along the Sea
of Cortez, but hasn't been on an ocean dive in more than 18
“Why? Oh, maybe because I lost my job
in February,” Petersen said with sarcasm.
Set to start a job as a software
engineer, Petersen, 45, came to San Diego last week for a
mini-vacation and a less-expensive dive with Sillanpa's company.
Petersen's previous dive was in a lake — a man-made one to boot.
“That hardly even counts,” he said.
H&M Landing, a well-known
sportfishing fleet in San Diego, has canceled many trips while
struggling with one of the worst downturns in its business in the
past 30 years, said Katrina Coleman, the company's office manager.
Only 1979 and 1985-86 were as bad — either because of a bad
economy or because the fish weren't biting.
Even when boats go out, the trips are
shorter and less crowded.
“People would charter boats for their
entire company,” Coleman said. “Now they just charter a boat
That sort of trading down can be seen in
the harbor cruise market as well. Jim
Unger, vice president of Hornblower
Cruises and Events, said the corporate business, which
accounts for about 30 percent of its revenue, has been hit hard.
Companies are less likely to rent out boats for private events and
more likely to reserve space on public cruises to save money. But
people who might have rented a speedboat as a way to see San Diego
Bay are now deciding to take a less-expensive harbor cruise.
“We've found new markets in this
economy as we've lost some other markets,” Unger said.
Still, he estimated revenue is down 15
percent this year.
Marinas are struggling, too, with
longtime customers selling their boats, dry-docking them or having
them repossessed. There are no numbers on how many boats have been
repossessed locally, but National Liquidators, one of the
country's largest boat recovery companies, said business is up
Eric Leslie of Harbor Island West Marina
said business is down 10 percent but he knows of other marinas
that have seen business drop by as much as 25 percent. With
big-name boat seller H&S Yacht Sales closing down its San
Diego office this year, Leslie said a quick recovery is not in
“New boat dealers are going out of
business and no new products are coming out,” he said. “We
could just bump along the bottom for a long time.”
The numbers for the boating industry are
Thomas Dammrich, president of the
National Marine Manufacturers Association, a trade group for the
boat building industry, said sales of new boats are down 36
percent this year and boat manufacturing is off as much as 70
“This is probably the most severe
downturn we've seen in recreational boating,” Dammrich said.
That downturn hits areas such as San
Diego especially hard. California is second behind Florida in boat
ownership and most are in Southern California, Dammrich said.
Beyond the numbers, the boating industry
is central to the region's identity.
“It's the fabric of our bay,” said
Sharon Cloward, president of the San Diego Port Tenants
Catherine Miller, a representative for
the San Diego Sportfishing Council, said the sportfishing business
always will be important to San Diego but she is worried about how
companies will survive the recession.
“People are trying to find ways to stay
afloat and get beyond this,” Miller said. “It's really
difficult. What can you do when your customers just don't have
those discretionary funds anymore?”
These are trying times for
many. The condition of the economy has an impact on everyone, not
just in the USA, but world-wide. The marine industry is suffering
like almost all others.
Fortunately, unlike boat sales
companies, boat service companies like ours are doing, OK. The
current financial conditions that encourage postponement of large
purchases like a new boat or car have had a much smaller impact on
conservative spending such as maintenance and repairs to boats
that families already own.
Boat usage was much lower
this last summer, compared to previous seasons, due to higher than
expected fuel costs but with fuel cost falling, usage has surged.
This should be a great summer to own a boat.
With that in mind I hope we
can help keep those boats running smoothly. If you need any
assistance and/or have any questions, be sure to contact
sure we can help.
As a closing note, I
with all those sucked in by and suffering from the massive pyramid
scheme perpetrated on the American investor and/or home buyer. I
hope our current president finds the courage to throw all those responsible
into jail and seize their assets to be returned to the victims.
Happy Boating to All!