COVID boredom turns to Boating Boom

Dan Levy
Updated: August 12, 2020 04:03 PM
Created: August 11, 2020 06:31 PM

DUNHAM'S BAY, NY - In a picture postcard setting that is Lake George, New York, summer tourism business this year was nothing to write home about, at least not at the beginning of summer. Although now, the picture seems to be changing.

"Boating has just turned into such a great activity for people this summer," says Matt O'Hara, operator of the Freedom Boat Club at Dunham's Bay, on the southeast shore of the great Adirondack lake.


With little else to do, and with boredom running rampant, people are easing the stay-at-home monotony by running to the waterways, which has created a welcome boom in the boating industry.

"It's inherently social distanced," O'Hara points out, "You're outside, you're away from people, and so it's really turned into the best activity people can do to still spend time with their family and friends -- and make those memories and have those experiences, and do it safely."

O'Hara has been operating the Freedom Boat Club on Lake George for the past five summers. After a slow start to the 2020 season, he says the boating industry is now operating full throttle.

"This summer has really blown away previous summers," he says, "On July 25th, this year we surpassed all of last year's gas total, which is a great indicator of how much people are using their boats."

O'Hara says boating club membership has increased 50% this year and by early August, reservations have already surpassed last summer.

Among the new membership is the Bullock family of Saratoga Springs.

"The thing that's really beautiful for us is as soon as we pull away from the dock, the masks come off," Bob Bullock says, "It's our pod, my wife and my daughters, it's just that feeling of being able to have some semblance of normalcy."

The new normalcy for boaters has become added work for marina operators, who now have to clean and sanitize the boats in between every outing.

"I know how challenging it is for other businesses that can't be open," O'Hara states, "so we're definitely counting our blessings and know how fortunate we are to be open, so I can't complain about any amount of work because there are people who don't have the choices to do that work."

Back in the beginning of summer, many in the tourism industry were wondering if they'd be able to survive the COVID-19 pandemic and keep their heads above water, but now, at least for boaters, their ship has come in.

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