LACONIA — It’s that time of year again.
People are looking to store their boats for the winter, and that means Irwin Marine Service Manager Jason Marceau is busy.
On Thursday morning, he was standing near a boat slip and speaking to a man who had just brought in his 40-foot Sea Ray from Wolfeboro so it could be placed in winter storage. Boats this large typically stay on the water in a covered dock during the cold-weather months, although most vessels are placed in storage buildings or are shrink wrapped and stay outside.
“We have outdoor space, but we try to get customers to go with indoor storage,” Marceau said. “With the shrink wrapping, it’s a lot of wear and tear on the vessel over time. It chafes on the hull.
“You have to climb all over the boat to perform the work and let’s face it, when that work is being done, it is in the fall. It can be wet, rainy. Conditions aren’t the best. You’re more apt to have mildew if it’s been raining and you have to shrink wrap it.”
He said Irwin Marine stores about 1,500 boats in the Laconia area, including 12 buildings for indoor storage. Statewide, it has more than 2,200 storage spaces.
Paugus Bay Marina has more than 700 spots.
Marceau said boat storage is at a premium.
“Most of the places around here are probably going to be full,” Marceau said. “That’s why you see a lot of these self store places going up because a lot of these marinas are full to capacity.
“The only way we store a boat for a customer is if they were here the previous year or if you bought a new boat during the boating season, then we can find a place for you.”
Scott Laurent, business manager at Irwin Marine, said strong boat sales increases demand for storage.
“We’ve sold so many boats in the last few years and those boats come with future responsibilities on our part,” he said. “We maintain space for those.
“The economy is doing well. People are spending their money on leisure activities. We’ve filled this lake up pretty well.”
Many buyers purchase their boats with cash instead of financing, he said.
According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, total expenditures for new powerboats, outboard engines, boat trailers and aftermarket accessories in the U.S. in 2018 was $22 billion, up 7.7 percent from 2017.
In New Hampshire, the total expenditure figure for last year was $209.4 million, up 8.7 percent from 2017. Total boat registrations in the state last year was 95,444, up 0.7 percent from 2017.
Extensive boat storage in the area is used during the summer season for valet services that use forklifts to put boats into racks when they are not on the water.
The boats are taken out of the racks and placed back in the water when they are needed again.
“That’s the way all these marinas have been able to put so many boats in the water,” Laurent said.
“There’s only so much shore space to put marinas and getting approvals nowadays is so onerous that it is a lot easier and cheaper to put it on a rack and place it in the water with a forklift.”
At Irwin Marine, the average cost of winterizing a 27-foot boat, storing it for the winter and getting it ready for use next boating season is about $1,700.
Pickup and delivery service is also available.
“Not every boat we sell has a trailer,” Laurent said. “We’ll go wherever the boat is, pick up the boat, drive it here, either on the water, or pull it out and put it on a trailer if it is feasible, and we’ll put the boat away.”
Holding tanks are pumped out, fuel conditioner is added and winterizing is done on the engine, the head and water system. In the spring, all systems are de-winterized, the boat is cleaned and it is checked out with a run on the lake.
Getting boats ready for winter can be a labor-intensive process.
“It’s a good problem to have — we’re too busy,” Laurent said.
“But part of the challenge is workforce.
“You’ve heard it from every employer around town, I’m sure. There aren’t enough people to do the work. It’s mechanics. It’s drivers. It’s yard help.”