Merwin: Quick, Buy a Boat

In case you hadn't noticed, the boating industry has tanked over the past couple of years along with numerous other sectors of our flagging economy. Major players such as Brunswick are reporting sales declines of 30 to 50 percent, manufacturing lay-offs are widespread, and many boat dealers can no longer find credit with which to finance retail inventories. Consumers, who once depended on home-equity loans to finance their new boats, are no longer buying as they once did.

The latest wrinkle to all this is the declared bankruptcy of Genmar Holdings, the parent company of major boat brands such as WellCraft, HydraSports, and Ranger. Some Genmar subsidiaries such as Ranger insist that both brand and business are still fine, but at the same time acknowledge that, yes, demand for $50,000 bass rigs has indeed declined. Interestingly, FLW Outdoors, the pro-bass tour also controlled by Genmar, was not included in the company's bankruptcy petition. And just a few days ago, a bankruptcy-court judge gave Genmar/Ranger specific permission to keep paying out promotional expenses--including tournament prizes--which apparently means the $1 million first-place prize in FLW's grand finale this year remains intact.

The whole credit crunch means it's a good time to buy a boat--used or new--if you have the cash. Great deals abound. My own boat was a paid- in-cash deal quite a while ago, so I'm still smiling on the water. And that reminds me of the late Will Rogers' prescription for solving the nation's traffic problems: Only cars that are fully paid for will be allowed on the highways. Sounds good to me....