In my last post, I got a little silly.
As is my wont.
I was having a hard time getting my head around Mr. Tillerman's suggestion that the number of Google searches for 'sailing' had much to do with whether interest in sailing is declining.
But, how do we answer that question? Is sailing going the way of the dodo bird? In the future, will sailing blogs be replaced by blogs about Lady Gaga? Will we all be bowling?
I have no idea, but I strongly doubt it.
There's really no way to chart the decline (if there is one) without doing some serious research. And research costs money that probably no one is willing to spend today.
One problem that makes the question hard to answer is that 'sailing' is like that elephant that the five blind men were asked to describe. You know, one guy felt the elephant's ear and thought an elephant is shaped like a pizza. And another guy felt the trunk and thought an elephant is like the mast on a J24. Sailing is really a thousand different activities. It's different for every sailor.
There are junior sailing programs. There's dinghy racing at all different levels. There's Olympic competition. There's beercan racing, serious local series racing, professional racing. There are sailing clubs, cruising clubs, and cruising rallies. There's coastal cruising and bluewater cruising. There are serious circumnavigators. Some have given up life ashore altogether and live on their boats full-time.
It's likely that some of those activities are in decline, others are doing about the same as they always have, and others are actually growing.
I can speak only about the kind of sailing I do - casual recreational sailing in a mid-sized cruising boat that needs a new autopilot that I'm too lazy to install.
Looking around O Dock, I'd say that kind of sailing isn't doing so hot lately, but in a way that doesn't alarm me at all.
Because in the past 20 years, my kind of sailing has ridden up and down very predictably with the economy.
My personal barometer is the availability of marina slips. When the economy is doing well, finding a slip in San Francisco Bay is nearly impossible. There are waiting lists, there are political games, there are rumors of payoffs. People commit all manner of crimes and misdemeanors just to get a slip.
When times are crummy though, you can find a slip almost wherever you want. While I've never seen more open slips in the Berkeley marina than I see today, I know that things will eventually pick up. They always have before, and I see no reason why they won't this time.
And the bum economy may be affecting other types of sailing, too. The fortunes of junior sailing programs and dinghy racing may not be altogether disconnected from the kind of sailing I do. I think a lot of the kids in junior sailing programs come from families that have larger cruising or racing boats. In times when fewer families are sailing, the pool of prospective dinghy racers can only go down, too.
I wonder what other people think about this. Without trying to make sweeping generalizations about how things are in the 'world of sailing', how do things look over your transom? Is your type of sailing 'in decline' where you sail? If so, do you think it will come back?
Are marinas closing around you? Is your racing fleet shrinking? Is your club in danger of going belly up?
Are you giving up and going bowling?