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Did you know that in 1911, a surgeon named Richard Clement Lucas predicted that by 2020, human feet would be comprised of one big toe only? Or that in 1900, John Elfreth Watkins, Jr., the curator of mechanical technology at the Smithsonian Institution, predicted that the letters C, X, and Q would be abandoned because they were “unnecessary”? These are just a few of the numerous predictions that have been made throughout the years; however, what none of these alleged soothsayers did predict were mask mandates, stay-at-home orders, and a crippling pandemic that would bring the world to its knees  However, amid the stress and burnout that has persisted to impact our mental health and emotional well-being, humans are, by nature, creatives. This pandemic forced us to reimagine the definition of fun and how we spend our free time. Boating was an answer.

According to research reported in Boating Industry Magazine, your brain on a boat is happier and the activity itself is one of the best ways to access the wellness benefits that water provides. One of the most popular sounds of ambient noise is the sound of waves gently crashing on a shore due to its ability to put you in a relaxed state. “Simply the mere sight and sound of water promotes wellness” said Wallace J. Nichols, author of the bestseller “Blue Mind”. As the research highlights, it triggers a biological response that lowers cortisol, your body’s stress hormone, and increases serotonin, the “happy chemical” that aids in relaxation. 

So, it should be no surprise that the boating industry, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA), experienced record growth for new boat sales in 2020- a year that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) point out that our mental health has been “languishing” due to Covid-19. This growth is also shown in data collected and analyzed by our own organization, Boat History Report, which provides a service that is similar to Carfax but for the boating industry. According to our state title and registration data, after a brief initial decline of new boat titles being issued, we have continued to see an enormous increase in year-over-year new boat registrations and titles being issued.   Americans are looking for an escape from the stress of the pandemic – they want to unplug, disconnect, and momentarily forget – things that are hard to do when tethered to land.

Take Me Fishing and Discover Boating’s pandemic public service campaign called Get On Board, shows that the evidence is abundantly clear that boating leads to a “relaxing and unwinding” experience. In a study done in 2005, NMMA found that 90% of Americans live less than an hour from a navigable body of water, and that the most popular boating-related activity is simply relaxing with family and friends. What’s more, boating offers families the chance to have some outdoor fun while still abiding by the social distancing recommendations issued by the CDC. Plus, it opens up a host of other socially distanced stress-relieving activities like snorkeling or scuba diving, fishing, scalloping, and exploring places only accessible by boat. It’s no wonder that boating and on-water activities have sky rocketed in popularity during these trying times. 

It is still undoubtedly a very difficult time for all of us and the abundance of stress and uncertainty is testing our perseverance. Yet there are some things we can control, like the opportunity to build resilience as a society as well as individually, and by learning new ways to care for ourselves. Just because the year hasn’t quite operated on an even keel, there are always new ways to curb the impacts of negative, unforeseen circumstances.

Bottom line, this year has caused us to navigate adversity and sail into new opportunity; it’s brought us together even when we’re apart; it’s reshaped summer vacations and family memories; and through it all, boats of every shape and size have allowed millions of Americans to get onboard – both figuratively and literally, with their health, social distancing, and stress management. 

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