Enjoy the Boat Show

Plan Ahead and Beat the Crowds

FSF Staff October 5, 2012

As kids we were told the circus is the greatest show on Earth. However now that we’re older we realize an international boat show is really the coolest event to attend. Where else can you jump on nearly every model skiff, bay boat, center console and sportfish from every leading manufacturer in one place? Throw in the latest marine electronics and a relaxed atmosphere with ice-cold beer and plenty of eye candy, and many middle age men would swear you have the makings for one hell of a great day!

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Whether you are ready to buy or not, strolling the docks is always an enjoyable experience. Photo: istock.com/ noderog

Combined, our crew has literally attended hundreds of boat shows and displayed at dozens of events across Florida and beyond. We like to think that we’ve seen it all, big and small, indoors and out. The finest boat shows are impressive displays of man and machine. What the general public doesn’t see is the amazing feat of engineering required to transform an empty convention center into a boat filled showroom. In water displays are also choreographed marvels, as Boat A has to arrive on time and be secured in Slip #1 before Boat B can tie up in Slip #2. Sounds easy with two boats but try coordinating 500 boats of different shapes and sizes arriving within hours of each other.

What you want and what you really need are usually two different things altogether, so make your comparisons wisely.

For attendees, once the gates open on Thursday or Friday morning no one really cares about or even considers the yearlong work required to organize the event. All the general public really wants to do is see their dreamboat and enjoy a relaxing day with family and friends, but with so much to see and do it’s easy to lose track of time and space. And while the majority of boat shows typically run from three to five days, the majority of ticket holders only attend a single day.

If you’re just looking to kill a few hours seeing what’s out there well then enjoy the show, however if you are seriously in the market and are intent on making detailed comparisons before making a final purchasing decision, you really should plan your day in advance. In either case, we can help save you a few bucks.

Typically, boat show sponsors and partners are provided an opportunity to offer preferred clientele discounted tickets. Reduced tickets, or coupons can generally be obtained well in advance of the show on said companies website. It may not be much but with a group of four, $5.00 coupons add up. If your online search comes up empty, call your favorite fishing and boating magazine or contact the show promoter directly. Somebody somewhere will steer you in the right direction.

Outrageous parking fees are perhaps the most common complaint by boat show attendees. You would think handing over $40 to park in a crowded lot a mile away from the front door would include a complimentary car wash or round of cocktails. Unfortunately, this is one area where you’re on your own. Vendors have to pay full price too, so carpooling is a solid idea. Of course, the earlier you arrive at the show the better your chances of finding a reasonable parking spot. On the other hand, show up at the Miami International Boat Show at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday and you’re pretty much screwed.

Regardless of how anxious you are to touch and feel that new 39 foot center-console, make sure you allot enough time to eat a big breakfast before arriving at the show. I promise, you’ll walk off the biscuits and gravy. Everyone knows concession prices at boat shows are highway robbery and unless that slapped together cheeseburger tastes like delicate lobster dipped in drawn butter, it isn’t worth $13.

Rather than waiting until you arrive at the event to flip through the pages of a show directory so you can find what you are looking for, vendors and their booth numbers along with a detailed site map are all listed on the promoter’s website well in advance. This gives you plenty of time to plan out what you want to see and where. And if you attended that show last year, it is very likely the manufacturer you are interested in is displaying in approximately if not exactly the same place they were the last time you attended. This is no coincidence.

Now that you are in, a small writing pad and digital camera or video recorder are great tools for referencing what boat was equipped with what feature, or to simply make notes and take pictures of particular items or accessories you’d like to investigate further. Once you’ve narrowed down your search, it’s time to talk turkey with a sales representative.

For the consumer, boat shows are ideal places to buy a boat because manufacturers and dealers spend an arm and a leg displaying and they must see a return on their investment. This means they are inclined to be more negotiable than they would be during any other ordinary weekend. However I’ve learned that if you firmly plant the seed at the event, the lead was generated at the boat show and you can reap the same reward a week later in a more relaxed atmosphere.

It’s no surprise that banks and finance companies have tightened their belts over the last few years, but lenders are starting to relax and realize that not everyone is a crook. With that being said, don’t expect to finance 98-percent of the value of the boat, but with a respectable credit score, reasonable deposit and acceptable income to debt ratio, you should be able to sign on the dotted line. For the greatest leverage, serious buyers show up prequalified.

Remember that no one boat is perfect for every venue or every family, that’s why there are so many styles and sizes of boats. What you want and what you really need are usually two different things altogether, so make your comparisons wisely. Also remember that the boat and motor package is only part of the investment. Insurance, trailer or dockage fees, accessories and safety equipment, marine electronics and fishing tackle, fuel and cleaning supplies…all of these expenses add up. Nevertheless when it all comes together and you’re out on the water enjoying a successful day with family and friends, the experience is priceless.

Boat Show Tips

Don’t forget sneakers with unmarking soles, sunglasses, sunscreen and a backpack or light duffle bag. These are necessary items when strolling the aisles and walking the docks. Enjoy the show.

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