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Boat-service businesses lining up first wave of sales

By KATIE ARCIERI, Staff Writer – The Capital –

Consumers may be skittish about buying new boats, but the owners of local boat-service businesses said they are still seeing demand from boaters who want to protect their current vessels this winter.

Now that cooler weather has arrived, the businesses are expecting their first wave of sales as local residents shell out cash to shrink-wrap, store and blast boat bottoms in preparation for the long winter months ahead.

Dustin Hoover, who started Legendary Trailer Repairs and Shrink Wrapping with fellow Broadneck High School graduate Christopher Grimm, said he expects to take in $100,000 from shrink-wrapping services starting next week through the first week of January.

Depending on the size of a boat, shrink-wrapping can range from $200 for a 20-foot boat and up to more than $1,000 for a 40-foot boat in the water, he said.

He said he and Mr. Grimm expect to be working non-stop.

“It is seven days a week, sun up sun down and then some,” Mr. Hoover said. “Sometimes we’re finishing boats in the dark.”

Meanwhile, Kirk Benedict, owner of Prestige Detailing, a Mears Marina-based business that provides everything from bottom painting, interior detailing and in-the-water hull cleaning, said he already has 125 shrink wrapping jobs lined up. “It’s got to be done,” he said of shrink-wrapping. “It’ll cost more if they don’t.”

Even in a poor economy, many still see shrink wrapping as a necessity.

“It’s the only way to keep a boat nice,” said Cape St. Claire resident Doug DeLost, whois also a customer of Legendary Trailer Repairs and Shrink Wrapping who owns a Crownline cabin cruiser. “It keeps the boat looking good, it keeps the interior looking good.”

Even so, officials from someboat-service companies have noticed consumers cutting back.

Mr. Benedict said some customers may be putting more money toward shrink wrapping instead of an end-of-season wax.

“They may even end their season sooner,” he said.

Mike Morgan, owner Chesapeake Blasting Services, which strips paint off boat hulls with baking soda from Anne Arundel County and the Eastern Shore, said he’s gearing up for the busy fall season, but doesn’t expect to blast as many boats this year.

Blasting services for a 30-foot boat can cost between $1,100 and $1,200 while blasting for a 40-foot boat will range from $1,800 to $2,000, he said.

“Every customer with me is different, some people are doing it because they are restoring an old boat,” Mr. Morgan said. “Some people are doing it because they have 20 years of paint.”

But with the bad economy this year, he said he’s not quite sure what to expect.

“I’m hoping that I’m just thinking negative,” he said.

Andy Dowell, general manager for the Atlantic Marinas, which provide high-and-dry storage for boats on the Magothy and Patapsco rivers, said his company is also feeling the pinch.

At the Patapsco marina, the number of boats in high-and-dry storage dropped to 206 from 216, but the Magothy marina is only “one boat shy” from being full, he said.

Meanwhile, the Magothy marina is full for winter storage, he said. He said he has work orders for another 35 boat for winter storage at the Patapsco marina.

“Everyone is looking for the cheapest spot to do it,” Mr. Dowell said. “There are so many marinas to store your boat.”