The Düsseldorf Boat Show highlights emerging trends and age-old traditions.
Thousands poured through the turnstiles, trading the cold, grey German winter for the 17 halls of the sprawling Boot Düsseldorf show. The largest indoor show in Europe, it has become a popular pilgrimage for members of the boating industry the world over. Whether you were looking to buy or sell a superyacht from Italy or a bilge cleaner from Texas, if you were wearing shoes and had enough time you were bound to find it here.
Of course it's not all work and no play at the show; there was some time for sampling a traditional German beverage (or two).
Once the shock of how many different boats were on display wore off (it’s not everyday you see 100-foot yachts inside a convention center) I began to pickup on how many nationalities were present and how many different languages I could hear. It was a melting pot of epic proportions.
One second our European sales rep Elena Patriarca, publisher Bob Bauer, and I would be sipping espresso at the Azimut booth, and the next we’d be—thanks to the caffeine—sprinting off to drink French Champagne with the team at Fountaine Pajot, only to conclude the day drinking German beer in the basement of a Lebanese restaurant with the Slavonia-based builders at Greenline yachts or eating Italian with the U.K.-based Fairline team. It was like Epcot but for boat builders.
At times communicating could be a challenge; thankfully Elena speaks 5 languages, thus picking up the slack for my and Bob’s very American lack of language skills. (Bier, Ja, tall was about the extent of our German.)
Once we stumbled through some introductions a funny thing happened. After a few beers, everyone would relax, gripe about politics for a while, and then talk about what we all had in common: A love for boats and being on the water. Stories of a remarkable cruise to Croatia on a Sunseeker, or anchoring up in an Aqueduct in the middle of England aboard a small fishing boat, or a memorable first trip to Block Island passed across the table. There is something about the act of sharing adventures on the water that is universally entertaining.
Then we’d discuss the new boats and products we spent time examining. A number of trends bubbled to the surface. The first is that hull windows are becoming more and more prevalent. Not only are there more and larger windows than ever on large yachts, but smaller yachts too are being fit with glass. There were wrap-around glass transoms, hulls polka dotted with circular windows, hulls with windows so large that they seemed to take up more real estate than the fiberglass. Then there were the floor-to-ceiling windows on mid-sized boats like the Sealine fleet and sunroofs on boats throughout the size range.
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There’s also an evolving acceptance of multi-hull boats. Once the black sheep of major shows, serious boaters seem to be acknowledging the efficiency and volume increases that these craft allow.
Another obvious trend was the desire to bring all the comforts of home aboard. That means standard Seakeepers, full-size appliances, and an emphasis on single level (or as close to it as possible) living. It also means increased desire to have multiple social spaces. Fold-down transom seating and comfortable bow lounges are two evolutions that have burst onto the scene and are likely to continue improving for the foreseeable future.
There’s a lesson in all this, I remember thinking after a long night of beers and laughing. All these people, with all different backgrounds, speaking God-knows-how-many languages, and it was single, shared hobby that bound us all together and allowed us to form fast friendships. In what other sport would something like this be possible? Soccer? Golf? Maybe, but for some reason I don’t think it would be the same.
If my time in Düsseldorf proved anything, there are some exciting trends and boats bound for our shores in the coming years. But maybe equally as important, it’s that boating attracts the very best people, no matter what language you speak or what port you call home.