The 2017 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) this past October is said to have been the largest boat show in the world. This year over 1500 boats ranging from seven to 257 feet were on display. The total exhibition space contained 3 million square feet over seven sites. There was an impressive six miles of interconnecting docks on the inter-coastal waterway. This is a big show that attracted 105,000 people. Sales at last year’s event were $508 million with a total economic impact of $847 million dollars to the state of Florida (almost double of what the Super Bowl brings in when here)
While it is very convenient for captains and mates living in the northeast to visit their regional boat shows, nothing compares to what is offered in Fort Lauderdale. If you are seriously looking to buy a boat, the advantage of coming down here is seeing all makes and models within your size range floating in one place. While regional shows are good places to visit, what you see there is limited by the smaller exhibition space. For instance, if you are looking for a boat 35 feet or larger, FLIBS offers you a chance to see every boat manufacturer available. At this year’s show, we boarded and compared 18 boats ranging from 40 to 50 feet from nine companies we were interested in. You could not do this anywhere as fast or easy as a large show like this. All 18 boats floating at the docks were within a 10 minute walk from each other making comparison shopping very easy. At the New York Boat Show limited space means less large boats so there is less on board comparison shopping. The New York show does have good brokers showing all their listings on display boards which can lead up to appointments to see boats at a later time.
Personal service is important in boat sales and at FLIBS there is a good chance you will be able to meet your area salesperson. This is because regional sales reps work many of the brands on the docks there. We had a few people from Staten Island Yacht Sales show us around some of the boats we boarded. An added advantage of being at FLIBS was the opportunity also to speak directly to factory reps.
Besides boats, there are a few hundred marine supply exhibitors. One reason we came to FLIBS was to seek out vendors ideas in case we decide to do a refurbishment of our 1999 46’ Princess rather than do a purchase. With our navigation and radar showing its age we walked into the large tent dedicated to only electronics. Here over a dozen manufacturers had large displays staffed by technical people. We spoke to directly to Raymarine, Garmin, Furuno and Simrad until we felt comfortable with one brand. We were impressed with Garmin’s forward-looking sonar that tells you what is below you up to 300 feet away. There also large tents for dinghies, outboards, marine head systems, engines and generators as well as other nautical oriented equipment.
For those with a Mega Lotto dream or want to see what the “half of the one percenters” drive (or get driven), the super yacht section is always fun to walk around. Here on the outer docks, you get to see up close yachts costing ten’s to hundreds of millions of dollars. These super yachts, docked like sardines in a can, show off their smartly matching crew and all the toys that come with it. Getting a tour of these boats available for sale or charter requires an appointment. Boating World was able to get access to the Long Island-based 156’ motor sailing yacht MITseaAh that spends its summers in Port Washington. Here on display for sale (reduced from $15 million to $10 million) we visited its old world stately dining area, salon, themed cabins and its two 16 cylinder locomotive engines that power this boat to 24 knots when not under sail.
Another fun thing to do is to walk around the more than three large tents of what I call nautical fun stuff. We found the usual assortment of marine-inspired jewelry, sunglasses, hats and T-shirts. One vendor did get our attention when he dunked what looked like a pair of boat shoes he calls Tuckets into a bucket and then saw them dry instantly when taken out. Think “Crocs” you can wear to a nice dinner. Another vendor Boeshield T-9 impressed with a waterproof lubricant. To solve a stale air issue on board, Kanberra demonstrated their all natural Australian tea based air cleaner that claims to scrub out odors and gave us a couple of samples to try. If you are worried about lobster lines caught in the propeller we saw the Spurs line cutter system demonstrated.
Miss Fort Lauderdale? Come to Miami
A good way to take a break from the cold winter blues is to the visit the Miami International Boat show over Presidents weekend starting February 15th, 2018. This five-day event is a very good alternative if you missed the Fort Lauderdale show. Miami’s show is a little smaller than FLIBS having 1400 boats on display with “only” 660 of them in the water. This show is a little different because you can schedule a sea trial in any of 200 boats. There is also a sailboat section having 50 boats.
If You Go:
Flights to Ft. Lauderdale are 2 ½ hours and run frequently. We booked with Jet Blue four months in advance and paid only $225 round trip. You can also fly into the West Palm Beach (one hour away) or Miami airports (45 minutes away.) There are plenty of hotels that line the beaches. Reasonable rates can be gotten if you pick a place 20 minutes north or south of the show. Hotels walking distance command a good premium.
FLIBS information can be found at www.showmanagement.com and information on the Miami show is at http://www.miamiboatshow.com/. While here take a few days to lay out on the miles beaches, do a night or two in Key West or a take a day trip to Everglades National Park. Feel free to email questions to email@example.com
Tab Hauser has is a regular contributor to Boating World and has been boating since 2006. Hail the Miracle at Brewers Glen Cove when boating in Hempstead Harbor. His past cruising stories can be found at www.tabhauser.com.