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JeffM

Boat Show rant

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Took in the New England Boat Show in Boston yesterday afternoon.  Never been to one before.  This is supposed to be the biggest in... I don't know, the NE maybe?  1000+ boats on display.  I figured I could usefully do two things: get ideas from what I saw, and maybe crawl around in new versions of boats that might be available on the used market. 

I knew sailboats would be far outnumbered by powerboats, and I knew I could expect little but sloops, but was depressed at what I found.  If manufacturers follow the market--as you'd expect as a matter of simple competition and survival--and if the manufacturers were fairly represented (which, come to think of it, may not be true), then here is what I found out: Powerboaters have money to burn and like muscle: one fairly modest-sized powerboat sported 250hp 8-cylinder outboards--THREE OF THEM!  There are about 20 times more powerboaters that sailors.  Yikes!!  Sailors come in two flavors: most are fabulously wealthy (I could have bought my house twice for the price of one of the larger yachts), whereas a slightly smaller group are very small people i.e. plastic dingy sailors. 

When I first walked in the hall, I headed in the direction of masts until I found the owner of Stuart Marine, who was displaying some nice boats: the Mariner, a trim cb sloop-rigged weekender built on the same hull as his Rhodes 19.  I asked him, in all seriousness, if there were any simple way to find all the trailer-sailing weekenders in this huge assortment of boats, so I could make my time useful.  He replied, "what do you consider a trailer-sailor?"  I said, "20 feet or under, easy set-up."  He said, "you're looking at them right now."  I thought he was being a good salesman and joking, but after 4 hours of wandering and poking about, I discovered he was completely truthful.  There was not a single other trailerable cabin sailboat in the entire show!  And even the nice, reasonable boats were priced out of my range.  After a few minutes, I stopped looking at prices, except to count the digits.

It's easy to see why so many of us build our own boats: our boats don't exist in the (new) boat market, and if they did we wouldn't be able to afford them anyway.

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When I was a young man, just getting into boats, there were 26 different models, from several manufactures for trailer sailors. Currently there are 6 models to pick from, though there are several custom and semi custom designs available, increasing this number to about 15, but many are quite expensive.

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There are about 20 times more powerboaters that sailors.  Yikes!!

Yikes is right!  you figure was virtually on the mark!  In 2006, new powerboats outsold new sailboats at a rate of 20 to 1 (approx 14,000 vs 260,000.. sad that I even know this figure off the top of my head). 

Unfortunately, this is what you'll find in any of the big, advertised boat shows (especially those sponsored by the NMMA).  I've been to the NY National Show in Manhattan, St. Louis and Los Angeles shows this year...and the offering was identical at all 3...a Hunter Edge and a few sailing dinghys and daysailors.    The Miami Int'l Boat show (which just ended), has a strictly sail event, but even that is dwarfed by the power boat offerings. 

If you check out http://www.usboat.com/us_sailboat_show.php, there is a sail only event in Md, .although it's in October. 

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As Ray said, the shows are too expensive for most of the smaller trailer sailer manufacturers.  Com Pac, International Marine (West Wight Potter), Montgomery, MacGregor, etc. all build quite a few trailer sailers, but they are rarely at those shows.  Sometimes our local show gets a Potter and a MacGregor (there's a local MacGregor dealer here). 

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The market share is divided into 90% powerboats, 8% sail and 2% other (oar, paddle, peddle, etc.). Most powerboats are manufactured products, from the big boys. A fairly high percentage of sailboats are custom or semi custom, meaning their volume is low, but quality is typically much higher. These custom and semi custom builders don't have the sales numbers to consider major advertising, such as boat shows, which usually don't generate much by way of sales anyway.

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Ray, thanks for the invite!  It's too far to go for a lark, but if I ever determine to look seriously at production boats, its a likely way to get a closeup look at lots of boats at once.  I should have known that all boat shows are not created equal, and that "big" is not the same thing as good.  Paul, what are the 26 and 6 models of trailor sailers you're familiar with?  There's a nice list of little cruisers on Shorty Pen's site--do you know any he doesn't have?  Age is no obstacle, as long as it gets me good value.  Thanks for the big picture, Jeff and Frank.

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