A family enjoying a pontoon boat.

After the Fourth of July weekend, it's easy to see boating is fun, because around 80 million people can't be wrong.

There are a lot of people on the water these days. Why? Because boating and all of the recreational activities associated with it are fun. Whether they're into fishing, skiing, sailing or just cruising, boating has become increasingly popular every year in Missouri and across the U.S.

Around 89 million people participated in recreational boating in 2018, according to the National Marine Manufactures Association, while new boat and motor sales topped the $8 billion mark.

Many happy returns

Boating is becoming even more attractive for families. If you've been looking for a family activity which provides a mix of togetherness, the great outdoors and just plain fun, you need look no further.

Fred Thomas, Independence, found when he bought a pontoon boat last year, it was one of the best purchases he ever made.

“For several years, I thought about buying a pontoon boat because of all the different things I could use it for,” Thomas said, “but I didn't think it would be so much fun. Already this year we have fished, skied, cruised cooked and swam with the boat. I think I have already gotten my money’s worth.”

Thomas is 58 and one of the 50-64 age range making up more than 40% of all pontoon buyers. Fishing boats draw more buyers than ever and for good reason. Today's buyers have more choices than ever, so many in fact that some buyers can be intimidated by all the options facing them.

Gone fishing or maybe sailing

Fishing boat salesmen ask people what kind of fishing they will be doing and what kind of water they will be fishing in. If they like bass fishing and usually fish small waters, a modified-V aluminum bass boat is perfect for them. If they enjoy fishing in bass tournaments, they may want to consider a performance-tested fiberglass boat.

Factors involved in buying a fishing boat include realizing a significant portion of the price of every boat package lies in the outboard. A more powerful engine will offer improved performance, but it comes with a price. More options are available on the fishing boats of today. Buyers should ask what accessories will be included as part of the package price.

No matter what type of boat you are in, there are several safety rules that apply to all boats. Always wear a U.S Coast Guard-approved personal floatation device. Never start your engine in less than two feet of water and know before you go the rules of the road.

With around 80 million practicing boaters using the waterways in America, it's important we all do what we can to preserve the integrity of the marine environment. We have to allow ourselves and future generations the chance to appreciate the beauty of the water.

White, a Stockton resident, has a versatile background in sports as a participant and journalist. His column appears weekly.

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