TIMES ARE CHANGING
For years there has been the perception that boating, marinas and the whole boating scenario was "by the rich for the rich because they are rich." Nothing could be further from the truth and in actual fact it is the working class who account for at least half of the dollars spent in the Canadian marine industry.
One merely has to look at the various levels of boating, whether it be a fishing model, an entry level cuddy cruiser or a larger stay aboard for a long time sailing yacht or powerboat. Boating has become affordable to many more than ever before, and the "boating lifestyle" we have come to know, is enjoyed by virtually every facet of the life.
Technology has changed the way we live forever. We have seen the advent of the microwave oven, instant communication through smart phones and portable internet. Navigation electronics have become extremely sophisticated and accurate allowing us to go from point A to point B using a very simple selection process while we set the boat moving on an electronic predetermined course.
The hardware in our boats has also become very sophisticated. The power plants are much much more efficient and environmentally friendly. Whether it be outboards or inboards and inboard outboards, gas or diesel, the new technologies are better and more reliable than ever before.
The boat construction has now moved to much safer and stronger boats that utilize new technology tools to build boats to much more exacting tolerances while using less material for money savings. This allows you get more for your money. Fabrics are better and materials are more superior overall. The marine industry is growing in leaps and bounds like never before.
Onboard technology can diagnose problems. Integrated systems can tell you what is happening, what is being used and what has to be fixed. The Joystick is replacing the use of the shift levers and steering wheels, and we are now moving into a totally new era in the marine industry.
Programs let you fix a location that will hold your boat in one place while you wait for a bridge or a gas dock space, or indeed while you remove or attach lines at your own dock. To say the least, it is extremely upscale from what many of us remember from years gone by. So is it any wonder that the "marine mechanic", has now been replaced by the "marine technician"?
This is the area that may, if there is one, hold the marine industry back somewhat. Think about it. Today's boaters drive cars where when they are serviced are even washed before you pick them up. The kind of service you get at the dealership for your Buick, Ford, Corvette, Cadillac, Lincoln, Mercedes Benz, or Lexus, may be at a much higher level than what the local marina provides in servicing boats. Yet think about it, even the upscale Bass Boat could easily cost more when delivered than many of the cars mentioned above... Yet the service may not meet those standards.
The marine industry, the marine stores and repair shops at the marinas and dealerships have been working hard to improve and conform to more exacting standards than they have had to do before. But so much more still needs to be done and so much more could be done to make it better.
Think about this.... If your boat is held up in repairs for two weeks, you are like being with out your car for 6 weeks at your dealership. You would not put up with it for the car so why should you have to do so at the marina.
Times do have to change. The technicians have to have a much greater knowledge base since they are expected to repair the radar or GPS/Plotter, the engine/transmission, fix a gel problem or provide a service as simple as an oil/filter change. The technology of the engine itself is so much advanced from previous times that just a working knowledge in that area is much more vast than ever before.
Yes, the times are a changing and as the consumer you should have the expectation that when you require service on your boat, simple things will be on the technician's checklist like checking belts, battery levels, fluid levels and even the bolts that tie the drive shaft to the engine/transmission, as an automatic matter of course.
If this happens, we can start to provide the service that so many have come to enjoy and expect at the car dealerships and there will be no problems while boating that could have easily been avoided by a responsible tech services groups.
We all have to change but the marine industry MUST move much more quickly to make positive gains in this area of responsibility.