LACONIA — Children have returned to school, the first signs of color are appearing on foliage and boaters are enjoying their final weekends on the water before they have to put away their pleasure craft for the season.
Bill Irwin, of Irwin Marine, says some people are now beginning to store their boats, while others like to enjoy the end of the season, which can include some of its finest days.
“We’ve had a run of good weather,” he said. “It’s a great time to boat in the fall. It’s more peaceful. It’s great boating, and some people try to get every last bit of it.”
But as sure as summer gives way to fall, thousands of boats storage spots in the region will soon begin filling up. After Columbus Day, Oct. 8, the rush will be on.
Irwin Marine has the ability to store 2,200 boats in facilities across the state.
Boat sales have increased in recent years, and in this part of the country, boats have to be removed from the water before the winter freeze.
“Boating is getting more popular, therefore, more services are needed, including storage,” Irwin said.
According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, new boat sales rose 4.3 percent last year, to a nine-year high of 266,900 units. Associated retail value reached $10.5 billion.
Total expenditures on power boats, engines, trailers and accessories in New Hampshire last year reached $192 million, compared to $177 million in 2016 and $153 million in 2015. Nationally, consumers spent $20.3 billion for these items last year, up 9.8 percent from 2016.
With all this money being spent on boats and equipment, people want to protect their investment. Price tags have increased. Some of the boats cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Heated storage conditions are increasingly in demand.
A 100,000-cubic-foot building was constructed recently at Lakeport Landing Marina to fill the rising need for boat storage.
The steel-framed structure is 59-feet-tall. It replaces and is about 25 feet taller than a wooden boat storage building that used to occupy the site.
Kory Keenan, of Paugus Bay Marina, explained the process for taking care of a boat for the winter.
When the boat owner is ready to say goodbye to the craft for the winter, it is delivered to the marina and winterization procedures begin.
A large negative-drop forklift removes the boat from the water.
Few things are inexpensive in the boating industry. A forklift with the size and power required to lift a 20,000-pound boat out of the water and place it high in a storage facility can cost almost $300,000.
Workers clean the bottom of the boat. The oil may be changed and any needed servicing taken care of.
The boat’s water is drained and replaced with a special type of non-toxic antifreeze.
The forklift then is then used to put the boat in a warehouse. The marina has more than 700 spots for boat storage.
Some boats don’t require a heated space.
“Some people who owned processed, older wooden boats want cold storage,” he said. “Shrink wrap is still offered for outdoor storage, and it’s a cheaper package.”
Keenan said his operation stays busy with service work during the cold-weather months. Also, much work goes into preparing for and attending a huge boat show in Boston during February.
Then, as March turns into April, people begin thinking about asking for their boats to be removed from storage and prepared for another season of navigating the lake.