Sept 10, 2020

Sheen MarineAt Sheen Marine, like almost everywhere else in the world, this has been a most unusual boating season.

New Years Day 2020

Everything was normal.

We had some large project carry over from 2019.

We started booking new 2020 projects.

The Toronto International Boat Show was normal, (as normal as it gets) and we continued with our regular number of bookings. We were just starting to hear about COVID-19.

As February developed, it was apparent that the epidemic in China could become a pandemic. We ran our annual "Fibreglass/Gelcoat Seminar" in conjunction with "The Rigging Shoppe", just as things were becoming serious.

By the end of February, two things happened:

1) We had a family meeting (3 households) and implemented strict quarantine measures to assure all would not become infected, weeks Federal/Provincial before government restrictions were in place.

2) Sheen Marine closed all pre-launch bookings (normally around March 15).

Normally managing our pre-launch queue is quite the project management challenge, matching jobs with specific weather requirements with the actual weather realized; schedules are very dynamic.

By March 15, boat yard access restrictions had started, though we could continue as "Essential Service".

However in early April, "Essential Service" was restricted further, and our work could only be performed for live-aboards, and emergency service vessels.
At this point, nobody in North America knew if there would even be a 2020 boating season, and we didn't know if we would ever be able to access vessels to address our booked projects.

At Sheen Marine, we implemented our COVID-19 policy, which included a number of common measures (self assessment, hygiene, PPE, etc.), and recommending owners not access their vessels within 72 hours before our arrival and after exit of their vessel. 

Finally by late April, boat yard restrictions were being eased, but with various restrictions and calendar day access, that really limited our ability to schedule large projects. In some cases, it wasn't even clear if boats could be launched in 2020. "Thanks for the access, but just what exactly are we accessing boats for, launch, or projects on the hard throughout the summer?" Nobody knew.

Additionally, the highly variable calendar access did not provide alternatives for marine service providers. If the owner could access their vessel for only 4 calendar days before launch, and had a scheduled project, the marine service provider could only access the vessel on those same days, putting the owner and service provider in a common confined space (usually covered with tarps or shrink wrapped) with very poor ventilation, exactly the opposite of what should be done during a highly contagious virus pandemic!

On Lake Ontario, many yacht clubs with fixed launch dates launch altogether the last week of April. In one weekend, 1000's of boats are splashing. Not in 2020!
By mid May, we learned that there would likely be a 2020 boating season, and launch dates were being announced, usually with 3 weeks advance notice, but still with calendar restrictions in most yards. 

With the very dynamic changes coming in daily, and little commonality between the various boat yards we service, we likely spent more time revising our project management schedule during this period, than actually performing work on boats.

But we worked feverishly to meet our customer pre-launch commitments, postponing anything that could be to post launch.

Finally launch days came at the first of June, and I took my normal sigh of relief as we realized the degree to which we had managed to please our customers, under extremely adverse conditions.

However the time to relax was very short lived. After focusing all attention on pre-launch, now we suddenly realized that all our projects delayed to post launch, and post launch bookings taken after March 15, had to be completed in only 3 weeks before our normal 2 week summer vacation shutdown. 

Sheen MarineWe ended up delaying our vacation 10 days (requiring co-ordination with 3 other boaters we commonly cruise with) to complete everything we possibly could. 
The interesting phenomenon that occurred, was that when the restrictions were lifted and boaters realized there would be a 2020 boating season, but international and even provincial travel was restricted or advised against, and boaters had time on their hands at home to think about their existing boats, or purchasing a new one, the activity in the boating industry exploded.

Brokers advise new and used boat sales have been extremely brisk, and we are seeing boat repair / improvement activity at much higher than normal levels.
This confirms my suspicion that the decline in boating in the last decade(s), is due to the lack of recreation time the average person has. Suddenly, as a result of COVID-19, almost over night, recreation time increased dramatically for the average boater.

Presently, we are finishing up some large projects from 2019 that are less "time sensitive, and booking pre and post haul projects to carry us to the end of the year and into 2021. 

It is interesting to see the substantial increase in large project queries and bookings, that mostly consist of electrical / electronic updates, due to pre-purchase survey reports when vessels change owners, and re-focused attention of existing owners, who now have time to investigate the exciting technologies available in electronic navigation, entertainment, and on-board power generation, storage, distribution and management, and comfort such as heating, air conditioning, and refrigeration.

This is really great to see, as most "Caribbean and Circumnavigation" preparation bookings are on hold, until the end the pandemic occurs either by natural herd immunity or widespread vaccination, and borders re-open to tourism.

So in conclusion, despite the world pandemic and it's negative impact on people's lives, boaters are turning lemons to lemonade and focusing on recreational activities closer to home, shared within their family and social bubbles.

Here's to a FANTASTIC 2020 boating season!

Best Regards,
Rod Brandon
Sheen Marine

ABYC Electrical & Marine Systems Certified

NMEA 2000 Network & Marine Electronics Installer

Raymarine Certified Installer 

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