Episodes 6-10 featured a wide range of boating experts and industry people: Betty Bauman, Founder/CEO of Ladies Let’s Go Fishing; Dan DeGeorge, VP of Sales for Docka; Stephanie Vatalaro, VP of Communications, Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation; Diane Seltzer, Marketing Director, SureShade, Founder/Editor myboatlife.com and boaterkids.com; and Kristen Frohnhoefer, President of SeaTow International.
With the timing of these episodes falling around National Boat Safety Week, we touched on a lot of safety issues. Kristen and the SeaTow Foundation are working hard to promote the Designate a Sober Skipper Campaign and National Safe Boating Week. National Safe Boating Week is the kick off week but safe boating is a year-long effort. Freedom Boat Club participated in a national PFD awareness effort. Diane and I discussed raising safe boating children and that starts with getting them accustomed to wearing their lifejackets as soon as they step on the dock. Start the good habits young! We also talked about the importance of Sun Safety and the industry collaborative called Sun Safe Boating. This can often be overlooked but is an incredibly important aspect of safe boating. Many of our guests took the boat safety courses as children and Stephanie was no different, her father required it!
Diane was not a boater as a child, but was hooked after a weekend trip on a sailboat in Rock Hall, Maryland. Soon after, she bought her first boat with her now husband, but then boyfriend. His initial training came from reading everything he could get his hands on and still carries that book knowledge with him on the water today. Kristen, on the other hand, has been boating since just about birth. She too was required to take a boating safety course and learned how to sail and operate power boats. Much of her childhood was spent out on the sailboat, sailing over to Newport or Essex, spending the night in Block Island, or just rafting up with friends. I remember those great days out with the family. Stephanie was boating as a young child on Lake Erie, until at age 7 they relocated to eh Florida Keys and her father became a fishing guide! Dan’s family rented boats at their summer getaway on Lake George before purchasing their own, and his father taught him how to boat. Betty also loved boating growing up but got more serious about it after getting a job with Wellcraft doing their marketing. That’s where she also learned to fish, figuring after working some tournaments she needed to know a little something about it!
Favorite things to do:
Betty loves to fish in the Florida Keys, Chokoloskee, which I call the Jurassic Park of fishing, and the Bahamas. Stephanie and her family go out on their 24’ Pursuit center console for a day of fishing or going to the beach. Kristen spends her time on the water rafting up with friends, taking a ride around Shelter Island or Sag Harbor, or going out with her niece and nephew beaching the boat, watching them swim in the water and jump off the boat. Diane is on the Chesapeake Bay - a beautiful, enormous body of water that stretches from Maryland down to Virginia. She says you could spend a lifetime boating on the Chesapeake Bay and exploring it all. Dan still likes to come to Lake George to cliff jump and do watersports with his Dockwa team.
Important for Beginners:
Kristen says make sure you do have a cooler full of water and some snacks because you never know how long you’re gonna be out there. You might want to bring an extra jacket in case you get stuck a little bit later. Stephanie suggests, More than a thing, is do the training beforehand. Before you go out on the water understand the rules of the road, navigation basics, how to read a chart or GPS. If there’s a chance to do a training or do a trial take it! Betty wants to make sure you get the right rod and reel. Learn what’s conventional, what’s spinning, what kind of reel you need for the fishing you want to do. For boating it’s what kind of boat do you want, what kind of boat suits you. Visit your local tackle shop and they will point you in the right direction for the fish you want! Discoverboating.com comes up with almost every guest. It’s a great place to start the research process and find out what type of boating – buying, renting, or boat clubs – is best for you and what type of boat fits your lifestyle.
Random Notes and Quotes:
I realized if I had a place I could go without him where I could learn the theory, and use the equipment, tie the knots, have a chance to practice, and then go out on the water and practice my skills on the environment then I would be a better part of the fishing team.
I get the feedback that we changed their lives. They were wanting to be fishing and once they took this they had the courage to go out and challenge the sport and find ways to go fishing.
Don’t be afraid of your fishing mistakes. Use them as a way to learn. Practice is king. The more you practice, the more you go fishing, the better you’re going to be.
He was watching the dockmaster run around back and forth between docks and writing reservations in a notebook and walked up and asked the dockmaster about how he takes reservations. The dockmaster said it’s the way we’ve always done it, it’s an old school industry. There’s a lot of room for us to help these marinas and operators get more efficient and create a better experience for the boater.
Boaters love it because they’re used to it in other industries. They can go online or on their phone and make a hotel reservation or an airline reservation, so it only makes sense that you should be able to do it for marinas and for boating.
If you look at fishing participation numbers they have been pretty flat over the last several years and with the changing demographics, in order to even maintain that flat rate a lot of change has to be made. What we really need to do is energize the industry to get that number even higher, to get on the front end of these changes and try to make that difference now. It’s a rallying cry for the industry. Let’s do this together.
We run an influencer campaign that speaks to that millennial target. [Their challenges] are time, it’s not having the mentor or the experience and not knowing that these opportunities are very close to them. A lot of younger generations are moving back to the city and they don’t realize that there are a lot of urban fishing and boating opportunities.
Eight years ago SureShade debuted on its first boat with the Boston Whaler 370 Outrage. They were relative newcomers to the boating industry, came up with this product, invented it, patented it, brought it to the industry at IBEX and within two years got their first factory install. Fast forward eight years and we have 100 different boat models that offer it as a factory option or standard feature and then there’s a huge aftermarket part of the business as well.
We’re seeing a lot of new boat styles coming out that serve a lot more purposes. You see a lot of crossovers and dayboats that are good for fishing, cruising, overnights. So I think the industry is trying to pull in a younger demographic but also give boaters more options and make their boats more multi-purpose. I would also add more physical access to boating with more ramps and docks and marinas, especially in urban boating areas, is another big thing the industry could be doing.
We always encourage our members to be proactive in maintenance. It is important to have that regular maintenance. Especially if you’re in the northeast and there are seasons, you want to do that spring commissioning and winterizing. Double check your fuel gauge on a regular basis, know how much fuel you put in your boat. Those fuel gauges don’t always work. Education ahead of time and knowing the area you’re in and being familiar with the waters is very helpful.
I see the peer-to-peer market, where current boat owners are going to rent their boats out to individuals through sites such as Boatsetter, as something that’s going to change the market. Boat clubs are blowing up at the moment because people see it as a way to get into boating, they’re just not ready to make that purchase yet.