JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. — The coronavirus has complicated all kinds of travel from airplanes to car trips to hotel stays, but one area that has benefitted from pandemic restrictions is boating.
Sales of new boats in May were the highest they've been since 2007, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association. Boat club memberships are also soaring.
Several large groups of people got ready Sunday morning to sail from Beach Marine on Beach Boulevard.
“It’s been crazy. We say everybody wants to take a 'coronacation,'" said Lisa Almeida, owner of Freedom Boat Club.
Business is surging for Almeida, who owns the members-only boat club.
“People feel like it’s one of the safest, best ways to be outdoors," Almeida said. "I think we’re no different than the RV business or bicycles. You can’t get a bicycle. That kind of thing.”
The club is taking extra precautions during COVID-19 by cleaning the boats more often and asking people to bring their own life vests for kids, which Almeida says are hard to sanitize.
"We are requiring our members to wear masks at the dock, and we are requiring everybody to social distance," Almeida said. "We are really holding our staff accountable for socially distancing and not being in the office all together.”
The club has added five extra dock workers on the weekends at the three locations in St. Augustine, Beach Marine, and Julington Creek to keep up with demand.
“As long as we’re still seeing the numbers of coronavirus increase and us still seeing it as a nation, I think people are going to continue doing this because it feels safe," Almeida said.
More people are stepping onto boats with the coronavirus driving sales. All three local locations are seeing about a 150 percent increase in people going on their boats during the pandemic.