Hurricane Sandy gives boating industry a boost

Following Hurricane Sandy, nearly $650 million are being written by insurance companies to boat owners who are looking to get back on the water.
CBS News

(CBS News) Hurricane Sandy is blamed for roughly about $62 billion in damage and counting. However, one industry may stand to benefit.

There's not much good you can say about Sandy. But surprisingly, its rising tide of destruction may have actually lifted the recreational boating industry. So along with huge losses came huge payouts.

When Hurricane Sandy barreled through the northeast last October, it leveled homes and businesses along the coastline. It also damaged or destroyed 65,000 boats.

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"Hurricane Sandy was the single largest loss to recreational boating since we been keep track since 1966," said Scott Croft of Boat Owners Association of the U.S.

As a result, one might suspect a lot of boaters and boat manufacturers were out of the water and out of business.

Yet Jeff Vaughn, vice president of sales for Boston Whaler, said: "Best December we've ever had."

Welcome to the world of unexpected consequences. The boating industry is expected to enjoy one of its best years ever. Why? Nearly $650 million are being written by insurance companies to boat owners who are looking to get back on the water.

This new injection of cash is helping manufacturers and creating new jobs, said Vaughn.

"Technicians who work in the yards are coming back to work to fix boats," he said. "People are buying boats, so people are hiring sales people. So we're actually seeing our businesses and dealerships grow and become more stable."

It's not just the impact of Sandy that is helping to boost business.

"The consumer has had this frugality fatigue," "said Tom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. "And those that have the money and have jobs and are feeling confident about their future are ready to spend."

That's just what Robert Ludwig is doing Saturday at the New York Boat Show. "I have $70,000 in my pocket ready to spend on a new boat," he said.

Overall, the boating industry forecasts a 10 percent increase in sales this year. But with so much dock space destroyed by Sandy, new boat owners could have problems finding a place to moor their new purchases.