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Besides the rain, boating season was alright

SCHUYLER COUNTY—Had enough water this summer?  Farmers, garderners and many vacationers may have lamented one of the dreariest summers in memory, but at least some boaters were undaunted by the weather.
“Out of the whole month of June, I think it rained 27 days out of 30,” says Bob Ervay.  He is the owner of Ervay’s Marine, 1.5 miles up the Canal on Fairgrounds Lane in Watkins Glen, and is looking back at a so-so summer, slightly better than  last year, though definitely not one of the better years.
“We were busy, sold a lot of gas, did a lot of service,” he sums it up.  “The boat market was fair, compared to some other years.  I think the other dealers feel the same way.” Ervay sells boats on consignment, and notes that those selling are often trading up to a larger boat or departing entirely from boating, for reasons having nothing to do with personal finance.
Don Roberts, owner of the Glen Harbor Marina, confirms most dedicated boaters don’t experience the financial pinch in the same way as the rest of us.  Sure, they may have suffered from investment losses – though many might also be economically better insulated than others from a personal economic meltdown.  But that’s apparently not the issue, where boating is concerned.
“Even in bad economic times, they’re not ready to give up the boating,” Roberts says.  “Boating is at the bottom of the list, maybe they’ll give up something else.”  Small boat sales were down in 2008, he reports, though things have picked up a bit this year.
“Last year was the worst year on record,” Roberts says. “This was a big upturn, but we were held back because of the weather.  You hate to talk about the weather all the time, but everyone’s been saying the same thing.  It’s like trying to ride a motorcycle in the rain.”
Ervay says he thinks canal usage was down a bit this year, with many boaters opting for shorter trips, or simply going out onto the lake and enjoying being in their boats without going far.  But Terry Stewart, Dock Master for the Village Marina and operator of Seneca Sailing Adventures, said he’s already taken out 125 sailing charters this season.
“Stopped by the weather?  No way!” Stewart says.  “Things were as busy as last summer or busier.  There were guests [at the transient slips] from as far away as Lake Michigan, lots of canal traffic, people coming from Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Lake Champlain.  This is my third year here, so I can’t speak about 10 to 15 years ago, but I think the development of Seneca Harbor Park with its lighting, brickwork and greenery has added to the whole environment here.”
And, Stewart adds, though the weather might have stopped some short-hop travelers when the forecasts were unfavorable, “for the live-aboard boaters from further away, the weather doesn’t stop them.  They take the weather in stride.”
Further, he says, he’s seen many in the community of serious live-aboard boaters, who discover all the amenities within walking distance of the boat slips, then extend their visit to enjoy more of Watkins Glen.
Gregg Bittler, owner of Anchor Inn and Marina on Salt Point Road in Watkins Glen, has fleet of boats available to rent to those who decide they want to experience the area from the lake after they arrive here.  He says that although he’d count 2009 as an off-year, he’s also seen a slight increase in rental boats this year.
“It was an off-year because the weather was so unusually cool and wet,” he says, then recalls a wedding he arranged for clients that took place this summer entirely on boats.
Ervay’s, like other area boat-yards, is currently busy with annual haul-outs, winterizing boats for storage until next year.  “The season is generally May to the first of October,” he says.  “A lot of people, as soon as the kids go back to school, they tend to close up and bring in the boats for repair.”
Only the true, die-hard fishermen go out on the lake into November, he says.  “If the weather’s nice, I do,” Ervay says.  “I’m not ready to put the boat up yet.  When the weather’s nice, there’s still some nice boating out there in October.  Go out and look at the leaves and take one last ride.”  

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