Guide The Modern History of Recreational Boating Safety

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Taken from 'The Modern History of Recreational Boating Safety” published and with permission National Safe Boating Council (
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Recreational Boating - Statistics & Facts

The beginnings of ancient boating can be traced back to pre-history, however, at that time boats were primarily used for work. When recreational boating began, it was a sport for kings and the socially elite. The industry has quite a history. Many accounts claim the history of boating for sport can be traced back to the s — and once the United States was formed much of the boating industry has risen and fallen with key points of American history. The earliest history of recreational boating begins with kings and royal regattas on the Thames River in the mids.

Before he took the throne in , he spent ten years in exile in Holland. When he returned home to take the throne, he was welcomed with a generous gift of a yacht and a crew. King Charles II spent time sailing on the Thames.

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His passion for pleasure boats sparked interest from many others, and can likely be traced to another monumental point in pleasure boat history — the first sailing club. Imagine a time without marinas or boat clubs. While boating became an activity enjoyed by many of the elite members of society, there was no formal space for them to gather.

Eventually, in the early s, many of these yachtsmen came together and formed the first sailing club in the world — a significant part of the history of sailing. Either way, this was a key point in the history of recreational boating. Shifting the focus to domestic history, in the United States, the first boating club was founded in in Detroit, followed just six years later by one in New York. Up until this point in history, boating was synonymous with sailing or rowing. It was a lot of work — and much of the work was done by a crew hired by the wealthy individual who owned the boat.

But all of that changed in the late s when Gottlieb Daimler, a German engineer and inventor, created an improved version of the internal combustion engine — not only for automobiles but boats, too. This engine completely revolutionized the industry, as it took a lot of the hard work — or the need to hire a crew to do the hard work — out of boating. Of course, with motorboats come racing.

In , the world came together for the first international motorboat race of its kind, the Harmsworth Cup, formally known as the British International Trophy for Motorboats. An Englishman won, racing his motorboat at a speed of By , outboard motors were manufactured, making it possible for boaters to put the engine on their boat, remove it for service or transportation, and then reattach it or attach it to another boat. This new versatility led to making recreational boating more accessible and economical to the public.

Just a few years later, the recreational boating industry sped up when American inventor John L. Hacker created a boat known as the Kitty Hawk. For those who recognize the name — yes, he knew the Wright Brothers.

Super Sport Crossover

This cutting-edge boat became the first boat to travel at a speed of 50 miles per hour. The merger of a few companies in the outboard motor business come together to form the Outboard Motors Corporation. Despite these marine organizations and businesses forming, pleasure boats were still primarily for the wealthy.

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So, the industry was made up of expensive, mostly custom-built, mahogany-hulled runabout models with larger engines. For the first half of the s, the industry was consumed with World War II. Resources were limited, and the boating industry was focused on building boats for the military. Perhaps due to the developments in military boats, the beginning of this decade is credited with introducing perfected fiberglass boats to the market in the United States. They were affordable, durable and low maintenance, making them a hit.

By the end of this decade, the economy began to return to normal — as it grew, so did boating usage and profits. The s — both the good and the bad — shaped the industry and resulted in high sales, new companies entering the industry and technological advances that created a boating experience that was easier, more accessible and, many would argue, more fun.

News Flash

The boating industry boomed, like many other industries, after the war. By , the industry was selling that many boats in just one year. The challenge for the boating industry became keeping up with consumer demand — from a workforce and supplies standpoint. Up until now, hulls had been made of wood or metal — now fiberglass hulls became more common.

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Thunderbird, one of the companies that would grow to be a part of Formula Boats, was founded in Two years later, Vic Porter — from the same Porter family that owns Formula Boats today — began building and selling small fiberglass runabouts under the business name Duo, Inc. Boat engines continued to improve.

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Modern versions of both of these engines are a part of many Formula Boats today.