Yacht designer Bill Prince offers sage advice for boat show-goers.

This past Ft. Lauderdale boat show was an action-packed festival where the newest boats from around the world took center stage. No matter where you stood on the docks you could spot at least one major new model -debut; they were everywhere.

The Miami shows are in our crosshairs, and planning is beginning in earnest. Our preparation for the February shows is nothing compared to the boatbuilders who plan for a major show a year (at least) in advance. Preparation is essential to having a successful show, especially for a boat buyer.

“What should our readers be looking out for when they’re walking a show?” I asked yacht designer and Inside Angle columnist Bill Prince as we headed onto the busy docks of the Ft. Lauderdale show.

The author and Bill Prince inspect an engine room, one of the first things a prospective buyer should do.

The author and Bill Prince inspect an engine room, one of the first things a prospective buyer should do.

Picking our way through our first boat walkthrough, Prince described two very different types of buyers who visit shows. Type A are well versed in the boat buying process and typically own a boat for two to three years before upgrading. Type A are the lifeblood of this industry; they fuel the new boat market. But it’s the Type B buyer that Prince worries about the most. Type B might currently own a boat, but have been working hard their entire life to buy the boat, the one they’ve been dreaming about. According to Prince, there are a lot more factors Type Bs need to consider.

Look Past the Shine

We step aboard a 90-plus-footer that has sex appeal to spare. The moment you tap the button to electronically open the salon doors you’re greeted by floor-to-ceiling windows and décor galore. There’s champagne on the bar and gold-plated accouterments everywhere. Look past these things and think practically, Prince advises.

“I walk through every boat as if I were in the market for a boat just like it. I look at it as if my family and I were going to cruise on it. I think about how we would use it. I also think about the day-to-day maintenance tasks, whether that’s oil changes or filters.”

Enormous windows can make an interior shine but consider, for example, the upkeep of keeping them clean, especially if you don’t have crew (or kids).

Remember Resale

“You don’t want a boat that will be outdated in five years,” says Prince as we eye a succession of exceptionally modern motoryachts. “But then again, you don’t want a boat that’s absolutely milquetoast boring and stodgy either.”

Prince talks passionately about protecting boat buyers from themselves and purchasing or building a custom boat that will age gracefully- and maintain resale value. “We designers have a duty and a responsibility to a private client of a production boat builder from a styling perspective so that the boat maintains much of its value.” He offered another example. “There are plenty of Hatteras Yachts from the 1970’s and ‘80s that are still nice looking. I wonder if the same will be said about some of the boats from this show in 20 or 30 years? It’s like the fins on a Cadillac: will they age well or are they going to expire soon?”

Start in the Engine Room

Want to learn what kind of boatbuilder you’re getting into bed with? Start in the engine room. While it might not be the sexiest space aboard (for some), Prince explains how important this space is even if you have crew and aren’t a gear head.

“The first thing I look for when I enter the engine room is how to keep the sea out,” says Prince. Sounds simple enough. “I’m still looking for the main intakes.”

“Battery placement is another issue I see. Many builders are putting them too low, like under the walkway. If you should get a sudden flood, low batteries can turn a bad situation into a life and death one.”

I hope you keep this sage advice in mind if you’re planning to attend the Palm Beach show this month. See you out on the docks.

This article originally appeared in the February 2019 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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