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Recreational boating in the U.S. - statistics & facts

Whether it be sailing, rowing, or paddling downstream at a more leisurely pace, recreational boating is a popular hobby in the United States. Recreational boating vessels can be primarily distinguished according to the type of propulsion. Mechanically propelled boats are those that require the use of engines, while non-mechanically propelled vessels are those that can be powered manually or by sails. In 2020, the number of registered recreational boating vessels in the United States amounted to approximately 12 million, with Florida being the American state reporting the most recreational boat registrations.

Recreational boating practices in the U.S.

Kayaking and canoeing, two ways to navigate without any other motorized assistance, were two popular recreational boating practices in the United States in 2020, with around 18 million and 10 million participants, respectively. Rafting, particularly appreciated by thrill-seekers, is another recreational boating practice that uses an inflatable raft to navigate on whitewater or different degrees of rough water. In the United States, the number of rafting participants was around 3.5 million in 2020.
Whether in fresh or saltwater, fishing is also a leisure activity that often involves the use of a boat. This activity is clearly popular with Americans of all ages and backgrounds, with nearly 55 million freshwater, saltwater, and fly-fishing enthusiasts in the United States in 2020.

Recreational boating safety in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Division, the number of recreational boating accidents in the United States sharply rose in 2020. The organization, dedicated to reducing loss of life, injuries, and property damage occurring on the U.S. waterways, reported over 5,000 accidents that year. Looking at the number of deaths and injuries linked to boating accidents in the United States in recent years, fatalities were fortunately only in the minority. In 2020, approximately 770 people died due to boating accidents in the United States, while the number of injured amounted to nearly 3,200. Furthermore, the vessel type involved in the most navigation accidents were open motorboats, which can hit significant speeds thanks to their powerful engines. Offering little protection to those onboard or anybody in the water, more than 3,250 boats of this type were involved in recreational boating accidents in the United States in 2020.

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