Each year the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show calls boaters to bask in its blend of the new and the breath-taking. Your guide to what to see and do starts here.
The Star of the Show
When the boat shows begin each autumn, we magazine editors and journalists who cover the marine industry are always looking for anything that’s really new, but especially anything cool or different—that pretty much goes without saying. In fact, when we run into each other on the docks, or getting coffee in the morning, or out waiting for tables at restaurants, or bellied up to bars for a cold one after the sun has set, we often grill each other with questions like: “Seen anything cool?” or “What’s the best thing you’ve seen at the show?” Now depending on how much I like or trust or want to impress my inquisitor, I may toss them a bone—something fairly obvious to chew on—or I may give them a true lead on something they probably haven’t seen or heard about yet. From me, only the real pals get some insight, one that many of the “professionals” may have missed. It’s a real forest-for-the-trees fumble for most journalists, especially those of us who stumble madly from press conference to new-boat debut, from sit-down with the marketing team to meeting accompanied by sales staff. When we’re at the show, particularly for the first couple of days, we generally have an appointment to get to, on the other end of some very crowded docks, at any given moment the show is open.
How come more of us don’t see what I think is the best reason to come to a boat show? It’s a case of focusing on the wrong thing, and believe me, it happens all the time. Those appointments let us build a carapace around our time, as a defense mechanism, where happenstance meetings with acquaintances always have an easy out: “I’m so late right now, but I will swing by later and see you…” And we usually do catch up with them later on—or most of them, anyway.
But when I think about the vast heap of resources available to us at boat shows, it’s not the latest boats or gear, or even the interesting industry concepts and design trends that come into sharp relief. What’s that, you say? It’s not all about the boats? Not even close.
The best and coolest thing I ever see at any boat show is you, the show-goer. Why, you may ask? What’s so special about me? Because without the collective you, there’s no reason for any of this excitement, this buzz on the docks, this innovation, creativity, industriousness, this unbridled enthusiasm. Without you, there are no showstopping launches, or wily brokers, or gleaming windlasses, or shockingly speedy electronics.
Without boaters like you, there are no huge and sophisticated motoryachts, or racy express cruisers, or quadruple-outboard center consoles in all their color-coordinated, LED-glowing exhilaration. There are no Kevlar- and carbon-fiber-reinforced hulls masquerading as classic Down East and passagemaking designs. There are no new boats bringing solutions the likes of which we’ve never seen before, but that will forever change the standard way of doing things. There are no old, but well-cared-for, brokerage boats that help get people involved in boating early on. Without the dreamer, there’s no dream of boating.
So get to that boat show. And walk those docks just as much and as slowly as you like. And if you see me or my colleagues out there, please say hello. And be sure to tell us what you think is the best or coolest thing is that you’ve seen at the show. Because we really want to know. —Jason Y. Wood
Ask an Expert
Capt. Bill Pike Executive Editor
Number of FLIBS attended: 27
Boats I’m most looking forward to seeing: Well, I’ve always been a fan of the old Bertram 28 and, to a lesser extent (for stylistic and proportional reasons), the Bertram 33. So checking out the new Bertram 35 should be quite entertaining, especially since I’ve already had an opportunity to see a couple of semi-finished models earlier this year. And hey, I’m looking forward to checking out the C120 from Aspen Power Catamarans as well. The Aspen’s a BIG boat with a single engine—right up my alley! And Aspen honcho Larry Graf tells me she’ll do a swift 17 knots while burning just 11 GPH…how’s that for some environmentally friendly performance?
Design Trend to Watch: You see it if you really look—a stealthy and modest downsizing that’s bobbing up here and there, from big-boat builders like Marlow Yachts (with its new 53E, which technically made her debut at the Miami Show earlier this year but is eminently worthy of a second look) to the smaller fry, like Ranger Tugs with its new outboard-powered 23-footer, which the Ranger folks say is “really hot” right now. I love this little small-boat trend, by the way, because it boosts affordability, which means more and more folks can get out there on the ol’ waterways and really, really have some fun.
Don’t Miss: Of course, I love boats, but food is a close second. And a couple of the restaurants I always hit during the Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show are pretty much old Lauderdale standbys. Probably the best example is 15th Street Fisheries. Located at 1900 SE 15th Street (of course), this cool little waterside eatery serves great food, great views (especially through the second-story windows that often fill up with swooping pelicans and boats cruising past on the ICW), and (Oh yeah!) great stone crab claws. What’s so truly fabulous about the claws, by the way, is that while you’re eating them (and pieces of shell are flying all over the place), people around you seldom get annoyed—they’re too busy eating stone crabs themselves. Stone crab season opens in mid-October, incidentally, so we’re all in luck. The Fisheries should have plenty (mediums, selects, or large) on hand for the show.
See you there.
Does anything beat a cruise, especially a far-flung one? Nope!
Check out our picks for must-see Long-Range Cruisers at the 2016 Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show. ▶
Ask an Expert
Jason Y. Wood, Deputy Editor
Number of FLIBS attended: 12
Boats I’m looking forward to seeing at this year’s show: I’m curious to check out the Pershing 5X—this is a boat that we’ve followed from the earliest conceptual design to the finished product. It’s got that edginess of design for which Pershings have long been known, but in a size that’s very hot right now. The engine options are what has me intrigued: A choice of surface drives or Volvo Penta IPS.
I’m also looking forward to the reaction of the crowd to the Evo 43. I saw this boat briefly in Cannes and I think she’s going to make a big South Florida splash, thanks to her swim-platform transformer and broad decks.
Greenline Hybrid is bringing out a 36-footer, the first new model since the company’s new owners took over, and they can’t get her stateside fast enough. I like the idea of efficient cruising and a good, commonsense approach.
Design Trend to Watch: Refocusing a boat’s design to stick to its brief, rather than trying to be all things to all boaters. I learned this in Cannes, when I was looking over the Overmarine Mangusta Oceano 42 (see New Boats on page 66). This superyacht is being touted for its “performance,” yet it’s a 15-knot boat. Instead the focus is on what the boat is designed to do—unparalleled onboard comfort—rather than higher speeds. It performs well for its intent, rather than some artificial standard.
Favorite Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show Memory: One year not too long ago, the show got nailed with a pretty good tropical storm, high winds followed by a tremendous deluge of rain. It was not great for the show, and I felt terrible for the attendees and exhibitors who were losing valuable time as the wind howled, the rain dumped, tents ripped and leaked, boats rocked and strained their lines, and everyone ran for cover. This was on top of the recession that had a stranglehold on the industry for years. But a little adversity wasn’t going to get everyone down, and if there’s one type of adversity boaters can handle, it’s the weather. No matter where you went, the show was alive and well. And that rain jacket I had been lugging in my boat show bag for years and years finally paid off!
One thing about fish—they don’t care if the seas are high or it’s blowing like stink, they eat when they eat. these boats are made to get you there to ring the dinner bell.
Check out our picks for must-see Sportfishing boats at the 2016 Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show. ▶
If you’re looking to go big or go home, ft. Lauderdale has always been the show for you. smart design, sophistication, and unexpectedly exhilarating performance await.
Check out our picks for must-see Motoryachts & Express Cruisers at the 2016 Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show. ▶
Ask an Expert
Daniel Harding, Editor
Number of FLIBS attended: 5
Boats I’m most looking forward to seeing: I’ve been following the happenings of Dutch-builder Wajer for some time; they build seriously flashy dayboats that look to be perfect in South Florida. I recently tested the Wajer 38 in Sag Harbor, New York, and my suspicions were proven true. Those boats are fun.
I’m looking forward to seeing (and testing) the bigger, badder Wajer 55, which is debuting at the show this year.
Then there’s the highly anticipated Bertram 35. I was lucky enough catch a sneak peek of the boat being built in Maine and more recently in Newport. Still, I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction she gets from the Bertram faithful in South Florida.
Design Trend to Watch: Many builders I’ve talked to agree, today’s motoryacht owner wants the same level of comfort at home and aboard. Translation: Rise of the open-floor concept. Steps and separate, enclosed living spaces are so last year; look for builders to incorporate fully opening cockpit/saloon doors and larger-than-life windows.
Don’t Miss: A weekend admiring the best boats in the world will leave you with some serious wanderlust, trust me. Scratch the itch, just a little, and get out on the water with a standup paddleboard rental (there are plenty of them around). It’s a great way to get some exercise, admire beautiful homes and boats, and think about that boat purchase!
Today’s Outboards have taught many boaters how to have fun on the water again. And the smart builders who serve this segment are clearly having a high old time.
Check out our picks for must-see Center Consoles at the 2016 Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show. ▶
Yankee angularity mixed with superior technology—one of the most attractive combos on the planet?
Check out our picks for must-see Down East boats at the 2016 Ft. Lauderdale International Boat Show. ▶
This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.