2019 is shaping up to be a big year in the boating world. New technology is set to transform the way people get out on the open water, and the ways they stay connected with their boats (even when landlocked at work). But not everything this year is going to be apps and devices. … some more traditional spaces are changing in ways that benefit boat owners — not to mention first-time boat buyers — in a bigway.
What are the 2019 boating trends to watch? Here we go:
GPS Tracking, all the time
Thanks to cell phones, we tend to take GPS tracking for granted. Everything on land has been mapped pretty well for a number of years now. Out on the open water, tracking isn’t evolved in the same way. All that is set to change.
2019 is slated to be important for implementing Automatic Identification Systems. These systems allow GPS activated location and communications between individual craft and the marina. Beyond radar, this allows watchers on land to know which craft is out of the marina.
For boat owners, this offers a sense of assurance both on the water and on land. GPS technology helps track boats to ensure they don’t become unmoored from the marina and set adrift — and helps to locate them when they do. Increased connectivity can also prevent theft and monitor property from anywhere.
Analog dashboards are becoming a thing of the past. Today’s dashboards feature digital touch screen displays that connect the pilot to vital information from all systems in the boat engine, not to mention GPS and — important! — the stereo. That way, you can control everything from the help with little more than a touch of the finger.
On-board tech is going beyond simple touch screens, though. Leading boat operating systems are preparing to connect wirelessly using mobile apps, which can be used to monitor and adjust systems during operation and at the marina. Plus, some tech firms are starting to formally integrate with Amazon Echo to bring Smart Home technology out on the waves.
A lot has been made about how driverless cars will transform the landscape in the years to come. Similarly, self-sailing boats are positioned to change the way people enjoy the open water – the difference being that self-sailing boats actually exist.
Automated drone boats are already being used for research purposes, documenting fish populations and real-time undersea conditions in changing climates. Used in the place of research buoys, these automated sailboats track a course over an area like a lawnmower, getting detailed information over a broad range that would have been impossible to acquire without human oversight only a few years ago.
The big question here: will advanced autopilot make its way to recreational sailing? Current commercially-available autopilot systems have their upsides and downsides, especially for adventurers looking to take their craft well beyond the marina.
Existing systems are designed to keep your boat on course, but the systems of tomorrow will help plot a course based on updated wind, surf, and other weather data. Soon, advanced technology used on container ships and ultra-luxury yachts will also become more affordable for weekend captains and small craft owners to install. We’re excited to see where piloting technology will travel in the year to come.
Growth of boating as an investment
Tax provisions included in this past year’s tax overhaul are beneficial for boat buyers. As more people look at the stock market and see instability on the horizon, alternative tax-beneficial investments like boat ownership look like a better deal than ever. Don’t be surprised to see some fresh new faces at the marina this spring!
Both new and used boats can be purchased using many of the same tax benefits as a newly purchased home. Buyers can receive both acquisition debt and home equity debt deductions for their purchase. In addition, a new provision allows buyers who operate as an LLC or corporation that rents or charters the vessel for at least part of the year to write off 100% of the purchase price as “bonus depreciation” in the year of the purchase.
There’s no dollar limit on this benefit, and it can be used to cover any improvements made or equipment purchased on the boat up to a year after you buy your boat — including new canvas boat tops and high grade marine windows. For aspiring pilots who want to buy a used boat and upgrade it to their needs, this is a marvelous opportunity.
Boat shows are back and better than ever
Speaking of buying used craft, boat shows are growing again, especially in the Great Lakes region. In the aftermath of the recession, a lot of big players in the industry pulled out of boat shows, which often pair substantial investment with a risk of low returns. Seeing opportunity, local dealers have doubled down.
Central to the newfound success of boat shows is a change in approach. Dealers at today’s boat shows are leaning-in on the boating lifestyle and experience in their marketing, and driving sales with strong customer service. Instead of using a traditional trade show angle, many dealers are making the show an event by including live music or partnering with local waterfront restaurants to woo prospective buyers.
Most industries are experiencing a social media renaissance and boating is no different (shout out to our friends at the @strataglass Instagram!) Social media is becoming an important resource for boat owners and prospective buyers looking to find information about products and services.
More importantly, it’s also a place where boat owners are finding community in between their time at the marina. People are using Facebook and Instagram to connect with other nautical enthusiasts to find inspiration (or just to share a passion for boating).