Charleston has become the largest city in South Carolina, with 34 people a day moving to the area. And it’s clear that many of those new residents are taking to the water, thanks to a strong economy and a year-round boating season.
“Boating is a significant motivator as to what draws people to live here,” said Rick Hall, president of Charleston’s MarineMax Hall Marine. “And because of the growth, and all the people who have relocated to this part of the country, there’s been a lot of growth in our industry as well.”
South Carolina ranks seventh nationally in boats per capita, according the Deptartment of Natural Resources. Much of that boating boom is concentrated in the Lowcountry, where companies like Boeing and Mercedes-Benz are adding an influx of residents with disposable income.
“Those folks, they're buyers,” said Jim McClure, general manager of Charleston’s Butler Marine. “They're above the median average as far as income. We've sold some boats in the last couple of years to people who have Boeing proudly displayed on their shirts.”
The Lowcountry has enough water to handle the increased volume, area boaters say. It’s at marinas and boat landings where that burgeoning popularity becomes most apparent.
“When I first started boating, you’d go down to the boat landing … and it was a no-hassle situation,” said Tom Hensarling, who’s been boating in Charleston for 50 years. “I wouldn’t dare put in on the weekend now. On the weekend, it almost turns to fights at some of the landings. When somebody comes back, and pulls their boat in front of somebody else, I’ve seen big arguments.”
“We’re based at Daniel Island Marina, and I get a lot of calls from people asking about marina slips,” added Bruce Jarrard, membership director of Charleston’s Carefree Boat Club. “This town, especially East of the Cooper, could use four more marinas, five more marinas. It has just exploded since I’ve been here.”