UK industry association British Marine has released new research that explores the profile, behaviour and purchasing dynamics of Britain’s recreational boating and watersports community.

The Boaters and Boat Owners Survey, sponsored by Navigators & General and MDL Marinas, acts as an important benchmark to analyse and formulate future developments in the marine industry.

One of the key findings was the importance of a boating community and generational learning amongst the public. While the perceived cost of boating is historically considered a barrier for non-boaters, it appears that a lack of access and involvement in a community geared towards boating, and not engaging with it as a child, all have an equally detrimental impact on participation.

When surveyed, nearly 60% of non-boaters listed not knowing anyone who owns a boat as a reason for not participating, whilst 22.2% said they wouldn’t know where to start and 29.6% put it down to not taking part in boating as a child. Just 48.2% of non-participants listed cost as a reason for their inactivity.

The findings also report a lifetime progression between on-water activities. For example, a large portion of past participants of small sailboat activities and racing (30.4% and 34.2% respectively) now consider sail yacht cruising as their main boating activity. Others are moving to activities that are more manageable with their lifestyles.

The research shows that 48.9% of watersports enthusiasts and 25.9% of canal boaters surveyed were previously sail yacht cruising participants. This is due to families converting to the flexibility of canoeing and rowing and older yachters switching to less physical motorboat activities.

The popularity of formal qualifications was another key finding. The majority of boaters (55.7%) learn through formal qualifications, many on hire and charter holidays, which are an important avenue to long-term participation.

In addition, formal training appears to remain a continual aspect of the boating lifestyle with a significant portion of participants (23.7%) undertaking further training for personal development or to benchmark their skill level.

The report also shows that the activity profile of boaters doesn’t automatically reflect the type of boat they own. For example, one in 10 dinghy owners consider yacht cruising as their main activity, whilst one in five narrowboat owners reported sail yacht cruising or motor boating/cruising as their main activity.

For some boating enthusiasts, the financial flexibility and diversity of craft and locations offered by the hire and charter sector provides a compelling alternative to owning their own vessel, with 45.1% of non-boat owners surveyed previously hiring or chartering of a boat.

And despite new pension freedoms introduced in the 2015/16 financial year, out of the people who have chosen to purchase a new or used boat, very few (approximately 1.5% of new boat owners surveyed) have opted to use tax-free pension withdrawals to fund the sale. Instead, 86.6% of consumers have used savings as the primary means of funding a purchase.

To download the full report, visit