- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Saleswoman Randy Chorney spends her professional days in the strict corporate culture her field demands. The clothes, the makeup, the attitude have to be just right for her to make the sale.
On weekends, particularly when the thermometer lifts above 60 degrees, the Centreville, Va., resident leads a different life, one in which the pressures of the business world give way to the tranquillity of the nearest body of water.She owes it all to boating.
"In my boating life, Im in my shorts, Im barely wearing any makeup," says Ms. Chorney, who works in the Internet security field. "It allows me to lead a whole different personality."
Ms. Chorneys story is part of a new trend in boating: More and more women are taking an active part in the pastime.
That will be reflected during this years Washington Boat Show, which runs today through Sunday at the Washington Convention Center in Northwest.
The show, which features 500 boats and 250 display booths, is the third-largest indoor boat show on the East Coast, next to Miamis and New York Citys shows, according to show producer Tom Stafford.
Plenty of those stopping by will be women like Ms. Chorney.
Ms. Chorney says she never had any interest in buying a boat until a gentleman friend took her for a spin in his four years ago. She decided to take the plunge.
Her boat, a Sea Ray brand sporting yacht, has become an integral part of her social fabric. She takes it as far north as Annapolis and Baltimore, bringing her boat home to Occoquan to dock.
"It becomes a lifestyle transition. People who own sports yachts really make a choice in their lifestyle to do that," says Ms. Chorney, who describes herself as "obsessed" with boating. "It takes the place of a weekend cottage," she says.
"People [with boats] band together, even if they cant be in the water," she adds.
The pleasures of the sport can be felt by either sex, she says.
"Men were into boating so they could be themselves as well," she says. "Women can relate to [men] in a different way than they could before."
The numbers show that many are embracing the boating lifestyle.
In 2000, 72 million persons participated in boating in the United States, up 10 percent from the previous year, according to Boating Industry International, the industrys trade group. Last year also saw 17 million domestic registered boats.
The local area is ideal for boaters, with the welcoming waters of the Potomac River nearby and the Chesapeake Bay only 100 miles away.
Opulent counties such as Fairfax (Va.) and Montgomery (Md.) povide enough green to sail over the waters blue. In fact, the metro area has one registered boat for every 27 persons, Boating Industry International reports.
The growing number of female boaters isnt "just the wife element," either, Ms. Chorney says. Savvy female professionals, single and married, are rushing to the water.
Rob Noyes, vice president of marketing for Sea Ray Boats of Knoxville, Tenn., agrees to a point.
"Women are becoming a much more important part of boating," Mr. Noyes says. "Theyre taking an active role."
That doesnt paint the full picture. Its reflective of the sports becoming more family friendly.
"Sea Rays strategy is to market to the family," he says.
To that end, his company has begun offering boating events that help neophytes navigate their way into the boating lifestyle. It also holds "demo days" around the country, events at which children can be entertained by clowns while their parents peruse the boats for sale.
"It allows women to take part in the buying process," he says.
Among the amenities added to Sea Ray Boats 25 feet long and longer are advanced, simple-to-use toilets, he says.
Bob Bagley, co-owner of Prince William Marina in Woodbridge, Va., says the inclusive trend in boating has been building for the past 15 years.
"The husband buys the first boat, but the wife is instrumental in buying everything after that," he says.Bringing women into the fold is a natural, and its a hobby that can unite family members.
"Its one of the few things left that the family can do together," he says.
The ratio of male to female boat buyers, by his estimation, remains about 80-20, but women greatly influence the choice of boats men buy, he says.
Mr. Bagley sees the trend toward more lighting in the boats interiors and better-quality fabrics to be results of more female customers.
Boat manufacturers are taking advantage of the consumer shift, Mr. Stafford says.
"Theyre responding just like automobile manufacturers did 20 years ago," he says of the industry.
The latest boats feature better color options, more creature comforts even galleys equipped with ice-making refrigerators.
"The women are demanding higher luxury items," he says.
The craft also require less maintenance than past models.
"The boats have become user-friendly," he says. Years ago, boat owners spent a good chunk of their time tinkering with the engine or other key components of the boat. Todays models are built better, with fewer parts that need constant maintenance, he says. Fiberglass hulls, for example, last for decades.
As for boat sales, Mr. Stafford points to a number of promising signals.
"The interest rates have dropped. Thats always a good thing for the industry," he says.
Another positive note came from the recently concluded Baltimore Boat Show, which he calls a reliable barometer of local interest. That event saw sales higher than in the previous two years, Mr. Stafford says.
Timing also benefits the Washington show.
"Were basically the last show of the season and the best-selling show," he says. "The dealers have to buy the 2001 boats in the late fall, and no one buys a boat in the wintertime," he says.
Ms. Chorney has a morsel of wisdom for modern boat manufacturers keen on fattening their revenues at this and future boat shows.
"If theyre not getting women involved with the designing of boats, theyre making a terrible mistake," she says.

WHAT: The 40th annual Washington Boat Show
WHERE: The Washington Convention Center, 900 Ninth St. NW
WHEN: Through Sunday
TICKETS: $8 adults, $4 children 6 to 12, children 5 and younger free
PHONE: 703/823-7960

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