I have a confession to make: When the 2020 Palm Beach boat show was canceled because of the pandemic, I wasn’t all that upset. The team and I were coming off a whirlwind travel schedule that included multiple international shows. Sure, trading the snow in March for the Florida warmth is nice, but just this once, I was content to sit on the bench and rest my blistered feet.
Of course, what I didn’t know at the time was that the boat show dominoes would continue to fall. Virtual shows of varying degrees sprung to life, and video presentations of new boats became increasingly important to buyers. Our geographically scattered team continued to get aboard boats one at a time to keep you informed.
This past fall, the team returned in force to the boat show circuit. And I have to say, the comeback felt good. First up was the Newport show, which was slightly diminished in size courtesy of supply chain issues, but that didn’t dampen the experience. New models and boats we had previously tested gleamed together while boaters swarmed the docks like starlings.
I’ve been talking to friends in the industry about how boat buying has changed since the pandemic and subsequent supply chain and labor shortages. The consensus seems to be that boat buyers are coming to shows more educated than ever. In the past, it was not unusual for a buyer to look at a dozen boats at the Lauderdale show, go home to do more research, then visit the boat again in Miami or Palm Beach and sign a contract. Today, because some builders are a year (or two or three) out in production, most buyers have done their homework; they came to Newport and Lauderdale to see their finalists and confirm their research.
Boatbuilders endure great costs to attend a show and sell boats. For some, a single show can make or break their year. And with so many buyers clamoring for such little inventory this year, I picked up on a palpable disdain for tire kickers, aka people who want to climb aboard a boat with no intention of buying. I understand all the forces at play here, but as a professional boat show tire kicker myself, it’s a bit disappointing to see.
What I love most about boat shows, and what can never be captured virtually, is the ability to climb on an array of boat types. In Newport I went from revisiting the Summit 54 to getting aboard the Wheeler 38 and Huckins 38, both of which I only saw in build. I then revisited the MJM 3z before hopping in a new electric boat for a test on the bay. That was all within an hour.
At the Lauderdale show, that feeling of yacht exploration is many magnitudes greater. One minute I’m aboard a Viking or a Riviera and the next I’m inside the elevator of a custom Nordhavn 80. Minutes later I’m dreaming of the Great Loop on a new Cutwater or bumping music on the latest Solaris on the way to the sand bar.
The reality is, I’m not in a position to buy any of those boats. But builders put up with me because they want me to tell my friends about what I saw. And by friends, of course, I mean Power & Motoryacht’s print, digital and social media audiences, but some of us could be friends, right?
Climbing aboard a wide range of boats is first and foremost a lot of fun. Secondly, getting aboard boats from five continents in a single afternoon helps expand your understanding of boatbuilding, design trends and builder values. Even if you’re attending the show with a check in your pocket for the boat of your dreams, I encourage everyone to walk the docks and see what else catches your eye. If they give you a hard time about getting aboard a boat, just tell them Dan sent you.
Right around the time this issue lands on your doorstep, the Power & Motoryacht team will be heading to the Miami show. I hope you’ll follow our coverage of this event here at pmymag.com, in our e-newsletter and on Facebook and Instagram. But more importantly, I look forward to catching up with readers on the docks. If you’re there, keep a lookout for us. We’ll be the ones climbing aboard, well, everything.