TORONTO -- For the first time in its 62-year-history, the Toronto International Boat Show has gone online.

More than 20,000 people have already registered to take part in the virtual boat show, which is about the same number that usually attends in person.

Due to the pandemic, boat sales are up.

“The pandemic certainly brought people out of the city to our waterways and to cottages. Boating is definitely a safe type of lifestyle,” said Linda Waddell, show director of the Toronto International Boat Show.

A Canadian boating survey found that Ontario boat dealers saw an increase in boat sales of 26 per cent in 2020 over the year before. There was also an increase in rentals and leases of boats of 17 per cent over the previous year.

The boating industry says young families, first time boaters and former boaters who are returning to the pastime are driving demand.

Many families see it as a safe thing to do during the pandemic.

“Boating is offering families a bit of a sanctuary in this crazy time. For the most part you are able to be safe with your family in your boat and have all the great times you normally do," said Steve Tait, the general manager of Walkers Point Marina in Gravenhurst, Ont..

So many people want to get into boating demand now exceeds supply. Many factories that make boats have also experienced delays due to the pandemic and a disruption in the supply chain.

The survey also found among boat dealers 80 per cent anticipate low supply or to be sold out by May of this year.

“It’s the highest demand I’ve ever seen. We really didn't prepare for this and we really didn't have any way to prepare due to the global situation," said Derek Mader, CEO of Executive Yacht in Toronto.

If you’re serious about getting into boating you may want to lock in a purchase before the boating season begins.

”If people wait until May to plan on what they are doing for the summer and if they want to buy a boat there will be no inventory at that time of year" said Waddell.

The boat show continues online until Sunday. It's free to register and you can take part in live chats, schedule meetings or just browse to try and find your dream boat.