Among Sandy's beneficiaries: Those who sell and repair boats

The Atlantic City Boat Show opens Feb. 14 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. Some experts say boat sales could rise 30 percent this year.
The Atlantic City Boat Show opens Feb. 14 at the Atlantic City Convention Center. Some experts say boat sales could rise 30 percent this year. (ED HILLE / Staff Photographer)
Posted: February 07, 2013

ATLANTIC CITY - Along the rows of gleaming hulls that are creating an odd kind of harbor in the Atlantic City Convention Center, business could boom this week as it has not for years.

Hurricane Sandy damaged or destroyed as many as 65,000 recreational boats when it flooded the East Coast on Oct. 29. In New Jersey, where wrecked watercraft are still being removed from Shore waterways, an estimated 25,000 boats were damaged, at a cost of about $242 million, according to the state police.

While plenty of Jersey Shore residents and businesses remain focused on rebuilding the basics after the storm, thousands are turning to such tasks as getting their watercraft back in order, according to organizers of the 2013 Progressive Insurance Atlantic City Boat Show, which opened Wednesday and runs through Sunday.

The New Jersey Boat Show and Expo, organized by the Marine Trades Association, will run from Feb. 21 to 24 at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center in Edison.

In Atlantic City, about 400 boats, worth more than $30 million, will be on display, from delicate 12-foot sailboats that sell for less than $10,000 to the mack-daddy 48-foot yachts costing as much as $1.1 million.

"The array of boats we have on display is what brings people in year after year. But I think the mood is very upbeat this year, because people are ready to move in a more positive direction after the storm," said show manager Jon Pritko, saying that about 40,000 people were expected at the show this week.

As boat show season gets into full swing, demand for new watercraft could increase as much as 30 percent over last year, when boat sellers' sales increased about 10 percent. That was the first upswing since the economic downturn began in 2008, experts said.

"Superstorm Sandy ruined a lot of things for a lot of people. but it didn't dampen the love they have for the sea and for getting out there on their boats," said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

Dammrich said the year's first boat show, in New York City in early January, experienced a "significant bump" in boat sales over last year, with many buyers looking to replace boats lost in the storm.

"Superstorm Sandy was the largest single event in terms of boats in the country," Dammrich said. "We hate to see business up because of someone's misfortune, but it could be a banner year for an industry that has really taken some hits over the past five years."

Peter Fredericksen, director of communications for Viking Yachts, a family-owned luxury yacht builder based in New Gretna, agreed.

"People are in a forward-thinking frame of mind. . . . They're tired of being tired," said Fredericksen, whose company saves the 42- to 82-foot yachts it sells for display at the Miami International Boat Show, which runs from Feb. 14 to 18, instead of bringing them to Atlantic City. Here, Viking is presenting an exhibit featuring its marinas, boat-repair operation, and other services.

"Sandy brought to everyone the realization that life is short, and if you are fortunate enough to be able to do this . . . to have a boat, then you should," said Fredericksen, who said that at a recent private boat show Viking held at its showroom in Riviera Beach, Fla., a record 800 people came from all over the United States to see the company's new offerings.

Melissa Danko, a spokeswoman for the Marine Trades Association of New Jersey in Manasquan, said that is what she has been hearing from insiders and boat enthusiasts alike.

"We are expecting to have a really good show, a well-attended show, because I think people are ready to move on after Sandy," Danko said. "And they're really ready to get back out on the water this summer."

Contact Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382 or Read the Jersey Shore blog "Downashore" at Follow on Twitter @JacquelineUrgo.

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