Interesting article about how the US dollar is sinking to more lows. Oh I long for the old days when people would run to Canada for cheap CD's and clothes. With dreams of invading Canada because us Americans could buy the whole country for next to nothing. Looks like the last laugh is on us. O Canada! Boat sales navigate South. Canadian buyers buoy U.S. dealers By LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE BLADE BUSINESS WRITER Times are tough for the boating industry locally, as higher gas prices dry up sales. But those who make their living selling boats say they're being thrown a lifeline from an unfamiliar shore: Canada. Our northerly neighbors are coming across the border in droves to purchase new and used boats and take advantage of the strong Canadian dollar and its weak U.S. counterpart. "Thank goodness for them," exclaimed Chuck Hutchins, operations manager for Friendship Sailing Group in Bolles Harbor, outside Monroe, Mich. "Pretty much a lot of the phone calls we're getting are from across the border. Their dollar's so strong compared to ours that they're finally deciding to take our boats." There's no agency that tracks the number of U.S.-registered boats being purchased by Canadians, but anecdotally, new and used boat salesmen like Mr. Hutchins said they are getting nearly unprecedented levels of interest in their boats from Canada. "It's a pretty rough life right now for a boat salesman," Mr. Hutchins said, adding that up to 30 percent of the calls for the 60 power and sail boats he has for sale are coming from Canadian residents looking for a deal. And even better, he said, they're buying. "The smart ones will put them in the water and run them across [Lake Erie]. The anxious ones will put them on a trailer and take them across the bridge," Mr. Hutchins said. "Canada's buying a lot of boats," said Ken Alvey, president of the Ohio-based Lake Erie Marine Trades Association, which represents buckeye boat sellers. "There are a lot of boats being bought over the Internet and sent overseas right now, because people in those countries can buy them here basically for half-price of what they are in their own countries. It's kind of a whole new market for local boat sellers." But while Canadians may be coming to the area to buy, few others are, thanks to the long-struggling local economy, said Larry Schenck, of Skipper Bud's Inc., a Chicago boat seller with offices at Toledo Beach Marina in LaSalle, Mich. He has sold boats locally for decades, and while two years ago he was one of seven sales people on his showroom floor, he now stands alone. "It's the toughest I've seen it in 30 years," Mr. Schenck said. "You just have to tighten your belt and hope there's enough notches in it." According to the National Marine Manufacturing Association, an industry group that represents boat and marine component manufacturers, shipments of powerboats of all sizes fell 14 percent in 2007, and association officials expected another poor year in 2008. "With the economic situation being the way its been, I'm not surprised that we're seeing some single or double digit declines," said Van Snider, president of the Michigan Boating Industries Association."I think that what it means is that all these things with the stock market, the real estate market, fuel prices, are impacting not only our industry but all industries." Boat registrations increased slightly statewide last year in Ohio to 415,562 units, up less than 1 percent from 2006, according to the Ohio Department of Resources. However, boat registrations declined in Lucas County in 2007 by about 1.5 percent to 13,712 units, the agency said. In Michigan, the number of registered watercraft fell about one half of 1 percent in 2007 to 988,378, the Michigan Secretary of State's office said. Mr. Snider said he is optimistic that the industry may have hit its sales floor, and is encouraged at the numbers of new people coming into the sport, despite its economic challenges. Tom Ervin, general manager of MarineMax Inc., a nationwide boat seller with a sales office on Catawba Island, said sales levels are better this year than last. "We're early in our season, but the early indications are reasonably positive," he said. "I think boaters are pretty passionate about the sport, they tend to still want to boat, even when times are tough. I think they sacrifice on other stuff in order to boat." Things may also be more stable inland. Chuck Whitbread, a sales associate at Devil's Lake Water Sports, Inc., in Manitou Beach, Mich., said sales of smaller watercraft are pretty steady. "They're not going down dramatically, and they're not going up dramatically," Mr. Whitbread said. "I think we're holding our own."