MA Releases Recreational Boating Survey Findings

Recreational boating, of one kind. photo courtesy USCG.

In spring 2010, Massachusetts sent 10,000 surveys to owners of Massachusetts-registered and -documented vessels asking for their participation in a 6-month study to gather information on recreational boating in the state.

Over 22% responded, and provided information through monthly surveys between May and October about their boating trips, including expenditures, recreational activities and routes.

According to the state, results from this study will supplement previous information on recreational boating in Massachusetts. Specifically, study data can be utilized by resource managers, the boating industry, and others to reduce conflicts between ocean users, improve business planning, and ensure that favorite routes and destinations are considered during the decision-making process.

Among the findings of the 2010 survey are:

  • The most popular boating areas are Boston Harbor, Cape Ann, and Buzzards Bay.
  • 52% of boats were between 16’ and 26’, and the most common boat type was “open vessel” (63% were open vessels, 18% were sailboats, 15% were cabin cruisers).
  • 85% of boats were powered by gas and 13% were powered by diesel.
  • Most boats registered in Massachusetts were stored at residential locations (e.g. private berth, mooring, on trailer), while most documented vessels were stored at commercial facilities.
  • Over 75% of registered boats were powered by outboard engines; almost 95% of documented vessels were powered by inboard engines.
  • Over 95% of participating boaters were male.
  • Surveyed boaters had an average age of 58.
  • Approximately 59% were employed full-time; 30% were retired.
  • 66% reported a household income of more than $100,000 in 2009.
  • Cruising, entertaining family and friends, fishing, and sightseeing were ranked as the most popular activities while boating.
  • The average number of boating hours among those surveyed during the 2010 boating season was 72.
  • 16% of the reported boat visits did not include an “on-water” trip.
  • On average, boaters were on the water 6 days per month during the 2010 boating season, with July and August listed as the most active boating months.
  • Based on the data gathered during this study, the contribution of coastal and ocean recreational boating expenditures to the Massachusetts economy in 2010 was at least $806 million. This estimate accounts for boaters’ trip-related spending and yearly expenditures, such as maintenance fees, seasonal storage and boat insurance, as well as the impact of this spending on other economic activity.
  • The highest level of trip-related spending by boaters was on boat fuel and oil. Other spending paid for groceries and restaurant expenses; transient or guest dockage (marina fees); general recreation, entertainment and shopping; accommodations; and other trip-related expenditures.
  • Spending for both trip-related and yearly expenditures supported over 4,730 jobs within the state, and the sectors most impacted included leisure and hospitality; other services; and trade, transportation and utilities.

The study noted that these estimates are likely conservative, representing only the economic value and jobs attributed to boater trip-related spending, not the full value of the recreational boating industry in Massachusetts. During the 2010 boating season, the Massachusetts economy was beginning to recover from the severe 2008-2009 recession, which may have dampened recreational boating participation. Boaters also reported that their 2010 boating activity was “below normal”.

Finally, while expenditures made by out-of-state boaters and foreign-flagged vessels visiting Massachusetts are potentially substantive, the boating tourist population was beyond the scope of this survey and is not reflected in the economic impact estimate.

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