The mention of Brunswick (NYSE:BC) might conjure up thoughts of bowling, but shift your mind to boating, because that's where this conglomerate is actually rolling its strikes. Brunswick's first-quarter earnings release showed big gains from Mercury Marine and other segments of the firm's many boat subsidiaries. Engine and boat sales were up 27% and 35%, respectively.

We don't seem to give a lot of ink, or pixels, to Brunswick at the Fool, so here's a quick intro: Yes, the Brunswick you think of started over 150 years ago with billiard supplies, but today the famous pool and bowling biz -- at $110 million in revenues for the first quarter -- is the smallest piece of the pie. Boats and boat motors provided about $1 billion in sales, with fitness equipment contributing another $130 million.

Brunswick has been on a buying spree for some time, and its marine portfolio includes Mercury and Mariner engines, MotorGuide trolling motors, along with boats from Sea Ray, Bayliner, Maxum, Baja, Boston Whaler, Crestliner, Lowe, Lund, and Princecraft.

So, it's no surprise that a significant upswing in recreational sales has given Brunswick a big boost. Earlier this month, management said things were looking up for both the quarter and the year. Total sales of $1.2 billion represent an increase of 28% over last year, though 9% of that came from recent acquisitions.

Earnings of $0.50 per share were nearly triple the $0.18 per share recorded last year -- before a onetime litigation charge cropped that figure back to $0.04.

The stock has soared over the past year, more than doubling off its 52-week low. At $44 per share, the firm trades at a P/E of around 23. Management looks for around $2.55 per share for the full year, yielding a forward P/E in the teens. Still, that looks too rich to me. The firm's free cash flow has been all over the board, due to all those acquisitions, and I wouldn't bet that the boat business will continue to grow at 20% over the next couple of years.

Dreaming of a new boat? Talk about ways to get to that goal on the Fool's Personal Finances discussion board.

Fool contributor Seth Jayson used to live not far from the Brunswick plant in Muskegon, Mich., and he is a big fan of the company's Life Fitness running treadmills. He has no stake in any company mentioned above. View his Fool profile here.