I just returned from a whirlwind tour of two early spring shows, the Palm Beach International Boat Show in Florida and the South West International Boat Show in Houston, Texas, and came away positively buoyed by the responses I heard from boat brokers.

Frankly, it caught me by surprise. Only several weeks ago, Soundings Trade Only reported a 14 percent drop in February year over year brokerage sales in the U.S., citing 1,679 boats traded in 2013 compared to 1,942 boats in 2012. If you thought that this might have had an effect on the number of boats displayed at the spring shows, like me, you were caught off guard when the number of boats on display at the PBIBS grew by 25 percent this year.

Combined with the news that some well-known brokerage firms like Curtis Stokes and Associates, and DeMillo’s Yachts Sales are adding new offices in ports like Annapolis, MD and Belfast, ME respectively, the overall health of the brokerage industry seems to me to be improving despite the numbers.

In fact, the halfdozen or so brokers I talked with on the docks at both shows left me with the firm impression that, while business is not booming, there are more sales being done that the stats might show. Before I sat down to write this letter, I looked back in Trade Only Today and found that year over year brokerage sales for January were well above the five-year average for that month, according to YachtWorld’s www.soldboats. com database.

I looked at today’s story headlined, “Boat sales suffer setback in February,” then looked back to find “Boat sales display renewed power in July,” “Boat sales keep steady pace in August,” “Boat sales regain strength in October,” “Boat sales get a bounce in November,” and “December sales solidify industry’s 2012 gains.”

No doubt about it, the continuing winter weather of 2013 has caused a setback clearly supported by the Statistical Survey numbers. Just don’t make the mistake I did, and forget all the good news that got us here over the last 12 months. Ask a broker and he’ll tell you that the thaw is just beginning.

Continue the “Thaw” You can help transform the thaw into interest in getting people on water through the spring and summer by spreading the word in writing to loyal readers and prospects. On page three, Alan Wendt points out that the industry continues raising the visibility of the boating lifestyle through widespread marketing campaigns. Perhaps there’s a tie-in to a story you’re developing or a newfound pitch idea.

A boatload of information and materials will be reviewed in the April 3 Welcome to the Water webinar; a click-through to signing up is there. Join me in participating next week. You can reach me at