MADISON, Wis. -

After years of declining sales, the boating industry appears to be making a comeback, with many local retailers reporting their first big sales increase in recent memory.

Between 2004 and 2010, with weak employment and low consumer confidence, demand for boats – considered a luxury item by most – not surprisingly dropped.

But the folks at Skipper Bud’s in Madison say sales so far are up about 20 percent this year with many of those sales going to first-time boat owners.

Owners like Ben Dotson, who said that buying a boat to relax in was cheaper than buying a vacation home to relax in.

"I bought this (boat) last year and I've had a blast, lots of friends have come on board," said Dotson. "It's just a great thing for community gathering, for peace, serenity, fishing, grilling. What else could you ask for?"

The president at Skipper Bud’s said that the mood of the country has had a big impact on why they’ve posted their first significant sales increase since before the recession.

"We went through a tough time and people are done with it, people want to have fun and they want to be with their family and their friends and they want to enjoy themselves and that's what boating is all about," said Michael Pretasky.

Pretasky said the cool spring and early summer haven't been overly detrimental to sales.

"Last year was such an unbelievable year, this year started off a little slower on the weather end, but this time last year people have boated three times as much as they have this year," continued Pretasky. "So I think if we have a good rest of the summer, we're going to see an even bigger improvement this year."

Pontoons, or fishing boats, account for most of the sales at Skipper Bud’s, but the company said they are seeing an increase in sales of their larger fiberglass boats as well.

Pretasky said that boat buyers are most concerned with bright colors, fancy seats, and the latest technology when making their purchases.

What can shoppers expect to pay for a new boat?

A pontoon will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000, with a fiberglass boat costing about $10,000 more than that.