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2020 Year in Review: The Biggest Boating Stories of the Year

By: Scott Way

As the clock winds down on a wildly eventful 2020 that saw more twists than a wakeboarding comp, I decided to sit at the helm and revisit the year that was. First things first: I could do without a repeat of 2020, at least in some respects. We all could. Definitely not in the boating sense, but in the social sense perhaps. The solitude of cruising open water with friends and family is a euphoria we all idealize, but returning to socially distant docks with health and safety measures is a reality I hope to leave in my wake sooner rather than later. Time will tell.

That being said, despite my fickle curmudgeonism 2020 was an incredible year in boating. With rapidly changing circumstances and a total redirection of the economy, boaters and outdoor enthusiasts hit the water in massive numbers that spawned a remarkable year in the marine industry. Sales figures are way up, and are projected to hold through 2021. Manufacturers are as busy as ever. New products are being released at a constant rate, and industry leaders have made claims solidifying the long-term health of the industry. Things are looking up.

We launched this site in May. In seven months we've watched our audience grow tremendously, and it's been a fascinating ride. Here's something I absolutely did not see coming: boaters love engines. I mean, really love them. Based on readership, engine content covers 5 of the top 10 stories of the year. You could arguably call 2020 "The Year of the Engine." The marine engine sector was a BIG deal in 2020 and some industry-altering events happened that caught everyone by surprise. Evinrude and Seven Marine are no more, Mercury and Suzuki are stepping up, and diesel outboards are on the way. Even so, I'm still not going to name 2020 in memoriam to my beloved Evinrude. The right adjectives to describe 2020 do not yet exist, but when they do, I'll be sure to make an engine pun with them.

Now, a few disclaimers. This list is based on readership and engagement across our website, social media, and other distribution channels. To get a more complete picture of boating in 2020, check out our 'Editor's Choice' list for our favorite stories of the year, not necessarily the ones that had the most industry buzz. This list was not chosen by us, it was chosen by you.

Here are the 10 biggest boating stories of the year:

1) Evinrude Discontinued; Mercury Marine Enters Agreement with BRP as Primary Engine Supplier

May 27th- Major ripples through the marine industry today as Mercury Marine announced it has entered a partnership with BRP to be the primary engine supplier for BRP-owned brands Alumacraft, Manitou, Quintrex, and Stacer. As a result, BRP will discontinue production of the Evinrude ETEC and ETEC-G2 engines effectively immediately. Read more.

2) Suzuki Releases New 4-Stroke Outboards with Drive-by-Wire Tech for 2021

July 22nd- Suzuki Marine has unveiled two new 4-stroke outboards utilizing their drive-by-wire technology typically found on larger platforms. The all-new DF115BG and DF140BG will be the first in their class to offer Suzuki's drive-by-wire tech in 115HP and 140HP packages. The reliability and precision response of the design has been showcased for years in existing 150HP-350HP models, and now the same engineering will be available on smaller platforms in 2021. Read more.

3) Outboard vs. Sterndrive – Understanding The Right Power Choice for You

June 15th- There have been a lot of amazing developments in boating over the last few years, and one of the most exciting is the number of boat builders who now offer some of their top models with a choice of outboard or sterndrive power. This new trend – which can be seen on boats by companies like Bayliner, Campion, Chris-Craft, Formula, Monterey, Sea Ray, Starcraft, Regal and Tahoe, among others – gives experienced customers the ability to choose the type of power that they prefer. The challenge is that less experienced boaters are often leftconfused, and wondering what the relative advantages of each style might be. Read more.

4) Yamaha Announces Big Changes to Sport Boat and WaveRunner Line-Ups for 2021

Aug 16th- Word hit the newswire late this week that Yamaha had unveiled their most extensive launch yet. It wasn't hyperbole either, as 2021 will see them dive deep into multiple burgeoning categories with the release of a new four-stroke SuperJet®, all-new VX® and GP™ WaveRunners, an all-new 25-foot boat platform, four all-new premium 21-foot runabouts, and two new 25-foot FSH models. Read more.

5) Mercury Launches Forward Facing Mercruiser Bravo Four S Drive with 'Smart Tow' for 2021

Aug 25th- There's no idling in the marine engine market these days as manufacturers continue to release exciting new products for the upcoming year. Industry leader Mercury has now laid a couple cards on the table with the unveiling of their new Bravo Four S™ Forward Facing Drive with Smart Tow®. The new Bravo Four S™ Forward Drive will offer a versatile inboard/outboard option versus the traditional inboards often seen in wakesurf boats. Coupled with Smart Tow® controls, the new drives will carry a host of new options for wakesurfing, wakeboarding, and tow sports. Read more.

6) NBA Legend Michael Jordan Reels in Massive 442 lb. Marlin in Custom 80' Viking Yacht 'Catch 23'

June 10th- His Airness, 6 time NBA champ Michael Jordan, seems to have more than just hoop skills. At this year's Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament in Morehead City, NC, the basketball icon and Space Jam star helped reel in a 442 lb blue marlin aboard his custom Viking yacht the 'Catch 23.' Surprisingly, that was only good enough for 6th spot with three days left in the tournament, but there's no doubt MJ is still looking for gold. The current front runner, the Predator from Hatteras, NC, sits atop the leaderboard with a chunky 492 lb fish. Read more.

7) OXE Marine Partners with BMW for New 300 HP Diesel Outboard

July 24th- OXE Marine has further entrenched their relationship with BMW by announcing a partnership to have them provide engine blocks for their OXE200 series engines. OXE's current OXE200 series uses GM’s 2 litre, 4 cylinder turbo diesel engine, which produces 200hp at the propeller and 415 Nm of torque at the crank. According to OXE's press release, they've been evaluating options for the next generation of the OXE200 series and settled on BMW as their block provider. Read more.

8) Regal Boats Showcases New 36 Grande Coupe and 36 XO for 2021

July 29th- Regal Boats built up major anticipation for their 2021 product announcement by giving consumers the chance to sign up in advance for a live video unveiling on Tuesday, July 28th. Plenty did, and last night anxious boaters were given the first glimpse of the all-new 36 Grande Coupe and 36 XO models. Read more.

9) There’s Knots to Know: 8 Basic Knots All Boaters Should Master

Mar 16th- If you're a boater knowing how to tie a few knots isn’t just handy, it’s a valuable life skill. If you spend any time boating, camping, sailing, or spending time outdoors it’s inevitable that tying a few ropes will be necessary at some point. Knowing how to sling together a trucker’s hitch or a cleat hitch is a valuable piece of knowledge, and you’d be surprised how often it comes in handy. Read more.

10) Seven Marine Outboards to be Discontinued

Nov 6th- Despite purchasing the 7 Marine engine company in just 2017, Volvo Penta will discontinue production of the world's most powerful outboard engine effective January 1st, 2021. In an announcement this week, Volvo Penta's commitment to higher environmental standards and net-zero emissions will see them phase out production once existing customer demand is met. Read more.

Honourable Mentions: