Boat show season is in full swing. From Boston to Miami to Seattle, and around the world, marinas and convention centers will soon be filled with boats of every description and the people who love them.
Whether you’re a long-time boat owner or still considering the marine lifestyle, there is no better place than a boat show to shop around, catch up on the latest gear, and maybe even learn a few new tricks. In fact, there is so much to see and do that you might get a bit overwhelmed, especially if you are new to the scene.
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of your time (and energy) when visiting a boat show.
Chart your course.
A bit of planning and homework can significantly enhance your outing. Give some thought to what you hope to accomplish during your time at the show. If you are a potential boat buyer, determine which models you’d like to see and where they are located.
Already own a boat? Consider making a list of the gear and equipment you’d like to see. Maybe you’re looking to upgrade some electronics or invest in additional safety gear. Take a few minutes to look over the show’s literature to see what vendors will be on hand. Come prepared with any necessary specs, including measurements for any built-in gear you might be mulling. Pictures of your boat can also help a salesperson provide you with options and accurate estimates.
Many boat shows offer educational sessions. Check the schedule in advance and structure your browsing or serious shopping around the events you’d like to attend
Dress the part.
The clothes really do make the man and woman at a boat show. Let’s start with shoes. You will spend a lot of time walking the show floor and climbing around boats, so comfortable kicks are a must. Slip-ons are a great idea as many boat sellers will ask you to take off your shoes before boarding.
Weather-appropriate clothes that allow you to move easily are also a must for navigating all those boat tours. For women, pants or shorts might be a better option than a dress or skirt.
And, of course, if you’re hitting an outdoor event, like the Miami International Boat Show, make sure to wear sunscreen and a hat. Even the winter sun can take its toll during a day of strolling the piers.
Get up close and personal.
Take your time when touring the boats that have captured your interest. See past the gleaming hulls, sleek lines and electronics to get a real sense of what it would be like to own and operate the boat. Check for quality of craftsmanship in everything from the hull finish to hatch hardware to the interior trim and woodwork construction. A small flashlight can help you examine hidden corners that might hide potential shortcomings.
See how you feel at the helm and whether you are comfortable with the sightlines. Get down into the engine compartment to get a sense of the access it provides for maintenance and repairs. With permission, Lay in the berths to see if you fit. Do the same with the head and shower. Does the galley have everything you need in the right places?
Do your homework.
If you’re in the market for a boat, come prepared to have detailed, informed conversations with the on-site salespeople. For example, study the various manufacturers’ warranties and be ready to ask any questions you might have about what’s covered and what’s not. It is also highly recommended to schedule times to meet with sales agents. Their meeting times fill up very quickly during boat shows.
There are many owners groups for various boat brands and models, including Leopard Facebook groups. These organizations can be a great source of information and insight on the boat you are considering. Some manufacturers have their own YouTube channels, as do many full-time cruisers, like Jason and Nikki Wynn and Lennie and Randy Smith as well as countless others. The brand videos can provide a nice overview of the boats on your list while the cruiser channels allow you to craft questions based on the experience (and mistakes) of others.
Be prepared to gather data.
A small notebook comes in handy for jotting specs and other info. A daypack or tote bag is ideal for stashing information sheets, brochures and vendor swag. And don’t forget that your phone’s camera is an excellent tool for capturing information and images that may be helpful in your post-show deliberations. Snap a pic of a spec sheet, and you have one less piece of paper to carry.
And, finally, be sure to pack your imagination and sense of adventure when heading to the marina or convention center. A boat show is a place of possibilities. Envision it here, and you’ll be one step closer to making it happen on the water.