Christi van Heek (left) of Punta Gorda makes some waves in a Harbor 20 sailboat during a race. Sailboats are in high demand during the pandemic, according to boat brokers.

Boats and RVs of all types, both new and used, are in big demand and short supply, according to local businesses.

Scott Ritter, who works in new boat sales at Ingman Marine in Port Charlotte, said an order received now, “could take as many as four months.” In fact, he said, it could take as many as six months to get certain types of new boats delivered.

His counterpart, Orion Wholean, who works in used boat sales at Ingman, said that he’s seen an increase in sales of 20-foot to 30-foot pontoon boats, center consoles, fishing boats and offshore vessels. He said that he’s seen a trend towards “family-oriented boats; it seems like a lot of families are wanting to get out on the water.”

Yacht brokerages are also seeing heavy demand. Ed Benson — who along with his wife Sara Benson owns Punta Gorda Yacht Brokers and Gulf Island Sails in Punta Gorda; he also is a broker for Edwards Yacht Sales — said that his sales “are going way up.”

Benson brokers both sail and power boats from 19 feet up to 80 feet. “If it floats and is in any kind of shape, it will sell,” he said.

One of the reasons there is such a demand, is “because of the pandemic” and lack of supplies, he said.

“I’m a dealer for a manufacturer who builds sailboats,” Benson said, adding, “one done in November might not be seen until May.”

He went on to explain that once a new boat is finished, it takes other suppliers to put in certain amenities — like upholstery for the dining area, etc.

But used boats are also selling fast, and one looking for a particular type or model might have to wait longer than usual.

Chris Schmitz, who owns Bayshore Marine and Yacht Brokerage in Punta Gorda, said he noticed a spike in sales at the beginning of the pandemic, but that things have tapered off a bit. Schmitz has been in business for 22 years and was born and raised in the area, so he has a number of clients “who have stayed with me.”

He said during the pandemic, a number of people “had nothing to do, so they went boating.”

Over at Gulf Coast Marine Center in Port Charlotte, sales have been up “tremendously,” said salesperson Joe Stoeckert, who said that a new boat could take anywhere from 12 weeks to eight months to be delivered.

He said that “everything” is in demand — center consoles, deck boats, and more. He said when he ordered his own Key West boat, it took six months for it to be delivered.

Used boats are also selling quickly, but mainly those that are 2 to 3 years old and owned by people who don’t want to boat anymore. He said there are a couple of older boats available, but from what he is seeing, the “pickings are slim,” so to speak.

Tony Mondello who, along with his partner Len Garofoli owns Pier One Yacht Sales in Punta Gorda, said that his business, too, has had an increase in sales during the pandemic. He attributed it to “all of the craziness and restrictions; the one place where there are not any rules, is on the water.”

But power boats and sailboats are not the only watercraft selling quickly; “Jet skis, small boats, anything that floats, are selling,” he added.

Mondello said RVs are also selling out.

RV One Superstores in Fort Myers is known for having a huge inventory, but perhaps not these days. Salesperson Tom Hafke reported that RVs of all types have been selling quickly. He touted the advantages of traveling in an RV.

“You are taking your bedroom with you,” he said. “It is a great way to avoid hotels, restaurants and air travel.” 


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