It's hard to imagine a time when there was more excitement and buzz about boats and boating. By most markers the economy is improving, and since fuel prices are down, the 2015 boating season is shaping up to be a very good one.

For those thinking about buying a boat for the first time, or for those looking to move up into a bigger boat, now is a very good time to do it. Why? Manufacturers are building more new boats now than any time since the recession, and they are loaded with innovative features unheard of only a few years ago. Because of this, there are more choices than ever for the first-time buyer. This fresh influx will also drive many seasoned boaters to buy new boats, which means more late model boats will be entering the brokerage market.

For proof of the above, look no further than the recently completed Miami boat show. The energy coming off that show is palpable. It gave the industry a chance to showcase numerous innovative boats. There were many new and exciting products, but to me, three innovations stand out the most.

More powerful outboards

More powerful outboards allow builders to do some amazing things. How about a 53' center console, for instance? A few years ago the only way to reasonably power a boat this big was through large, heavy diesel engines or high-powered gasoline inboards mated to outdrives or surface piercing drives. These installations took up an enormous amount of interior volume, reducing usable space.

With outboards, nearly all the interior volume of the hull is preserved as the engines are mounted aft of the transom. This allows designers to repurpose all that recovered room to the boater’s advantage.

Feature-rich electronics

Many new boats offer feature-rich electronics including incredibly effective fishfinders and large, flat panel touch screen plotters are making it easier than ever for the skipper to have all the info he or she needs at the tip of a finger. These devices can integrate with any number of other onboard systems such as engine instruments, cameras, and entertainment systems.

Innovative use of space, or if you prefer, 'out of the box' thinking

Innovative use of space and ‘out of the box’ thinking has given rise to the multi-tasking boat, opening up great opportunities for buyers who want their boat to be good at more than one thing. For example, center console boats that excel as fishing machines are also getting increased creature comforts that facilitate cruising and relaxing with family and friends.

Encouragingly, builders have also kept the entry-level boater in mind, with boat and trailer packages available for under $20k. At the other end of the spectrum, boats are getting bigger and bigger and in truth, what can be imagined can be built.

Imagination meets the water

First, for the entry level boater, the Rinker Captiva 170 Bowrider is available with a 70 horse power outboard, trailer included, for under $20k.

At the other end of the spectrum, the 53’ Hydra Sports Suenos harnesses the power of 4 Seven Marine 557 hp outboards to transform a center console fishing boat into a multi-purpose, amenity laden yacht.

For another example of ‘out of the box’ thinking, take a look at the Boston Whaler 320 Vantage. This boat redefines the dual console concept by making the boat large enough to accommodate separate interior compartments in each port and starboard console.

The buzz signals reawakening

Why this sudden explosion of new innovative features? Truth is, many of these advancements have been a long time in the making and have matured over the last several years, but in a down economy builders were reluctant to invest in the tooling and other requirements to put these elements into production. There was just too much financial risk in play.

But today is different; forces have aligned to generate nothing less than a reawakening of the recreational boating industry. This is good for the health of the industry and creates exciting opportunities for all boaters.