Fort Lauderdale Boat Show: Perspectives of a non buyer

The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is the first major marine event to take place since the pandemic started in April. The miles of floating docks of the show have been widened up to 30 feet to allow for proper social distancing across the 13 entrances to the Bahia Mar site.

This year’s FLIBS was unlike any previous one: less crowds, but apparently a healthy dose of serious buyers. The docks were quite empty by normal standards. On previous shows, FLIBS would see tons of people roaming through the floating docks eager to watch the latest or model of boat.

Even with the number of exhibits reduced, it was still the world’s largest in-water boat show and this years show was easier to get in with more buses and water taxis, and constant sanitizing. There were more entrances and no paper tickets; your ticket was on your phone.

Center console with a garmin dashboard.
Center console with a Garmin dashboard.

Entertaining show for all people

As a non buyer, I took advantage of the show to pass out business cards of our website Waterfront Gurus. Not only boats are available but also all the industry that surrounds it. In my case, it was great to see partners such as Hi-Tide Boat Lifts and Neptune with such great presence on the show.

Neptune lifted the boat portal at the entrance of the show, and Hi-Tide had a large booth with two sets of boat lifts on display. According to the Thomas Fox, at Hi-Tide, this years show had yielded good business to them already, with buyers asking only two things: what price and when can it be installed.

But back to the topic of being a non buyer. Yes, I say that because I don’t know much about boats. Most people at the show seemed to know. They talked the language, made comments about size and price and I even found out that the boats age matters. This 15 year kid next to me pointed out to his dad, that the 300k boat in front of us was a great price, even though it was dated: a 2007. How would I know?

Courting a prospective partner with a boat outing, there’s a great chance you will hit it off with her/him after a fun day cruising.

But there’s something about being surrounded by these amazing machines and technology. A while ago, I would never think about owning a boat. I would go by the saying: “The two happiest days in a sailor’s life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it.” But now, I understand that is not entirely true. There are affordable boats that will give you and your family tons of fun time on the water.

The secret to being happy with a boat is to find the balance between what you can afford and what’s important for you. You’d be surprised to know that there are used boats starting at 10 thousand dollars. Yes, 10 thousand dollars and keeping it on a trailer in your yard, and bringing it to the boat ramp every week with your family or a prospective partner. A boat gives you a great chance you will hit it off with her/him after a fun day cruising. Try it.

Large yatches were in Demand on the show.
Large yatches were in Demand on the show.

As a non buyer, I learned a lot about boats

But It wasn’t this yea that I will be buying one yet. I did start looking at used ones though, and found out that you can rent one too for the day and to have fun with friends. That may be my main option for now but there were other things that called my attention to the show “as a non buyer”.

Not all boats are super expensive: There were boats at 2,500 U$D price range. It was the PolyCraft Polyethylene boats without a motor. It’s made for starter boaters and they were offering ocean test drives on Sunday, last day of the show. Found out through my Instagram account, that there’s a lot of demand from buyers interested on the new PolyCraft Tuffy vessels.

Not all attendees were boaters: Many like me were there for the show. We were taking pictures, and making videos and posing in front of huge yatchs that we may never buy. But who cares, we were still having fun. At 35 U$D for attendance, that’s more than a music concert. And I haven’t spent that much on a music concert in a while.

You can only tour the yachts, by scheduling an appointment with a broker: Don’t know if this was this year only, but we could not get on the yachts. Yatch tours were reserved for prospective buyers that had to sign up and schedule a showing time with a broker. I believe opening the yachts for the general public would generate tons of fun social media posts and that would be a plus if the show was looking to attract more attendees

The market is hot for super yatches: customer demand for new yachts of all sizes is at an all-time high, and nearly all other yacht shows being forced to cancel due to Covid19 safety concerns, FLIBS 2020 ended up being one of the only shows potential buyers could see a wide variety of yachts in one easy location in person this year.

It was a super safe outdoors event: With about 85% of the show taking place outdoors, it seemed very safe in avoiding the coronavirus’s ability to spread. There were sanitizing crews all over, and also other security professionals. Everyone was wearing masks.

The show moves the economy of Fort Lauderdale and south Florida: the boat show brings in hundreds of yacht and watercraft models from the world’s most renowned marine designers. But it also brings something more: money and jobs. Hotels, restaurants, supporting staff, everyone benefits from major events. The boat show has been compared to two Super Bowls in economic impact.

Max Francisco