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The Big Top

 Overload your senses with $3 billion worth of boats, gear and accessories at six venues

The numbers for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show are staggering: $3 billion worth of boats and products on display for five days at a show that encompasses 3 million square feet of space at six venues.

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Those who attend the Oct. 25-29 event will find boats ranging from a 9-foot Caribe inflatable built in Caracas, Venezuela, to the 296-foot Nero, an $89 million superyacht built by the Raffles Yachts shipyard in China to look like J. Pierpont Morgan’s 19th century steam yacht Corsair.

Between these extremes, visitors can browse to their heart’s content among a sea of runabouts, sportfishermen, high-performance boats, center consoles, cabin boats, flats boats, skiffs, express cruisers, sailboats, motoryachts, bowriders, catamarans, ski boats, jetboats, trawlers, inflatables and canoes, as well as displays of marine accessories and equipment, nautical clothing, jewelry, art — even exotic cars.

To help show-goers navigate this vast sea and find the boat or equipment or accessory they’re looking for, organizer Show Management has set up villages at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center for different kinds of boats and improved the free MyBoatShow mobile app (visit to download). Introduced last year, the app lets visitors search for boats and exhibitors on their iPhone or Android and find their way around the show on the app’s maps.

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Looking for a performance boat? Performance Village is along H/I dock near the entrance to the in-water portion of the show at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center. Anglers will find the Sportfish Village at the C/D dock, along with a new area for custom builders and their one-of-a-kind fishing machines. For the second year, PassageMaker magazine will set up camp at B dock for its TrawlerPort, a show within a show focusing on trawler yachts and the cruising lifestyle with boats, gear and seminars.

Noted for its international fleet of superyachts along the face dock from the Bahia Mar past the Hall of Fame Marina to the Las Olas Marina, the Lauderdale show hosts a Superyacht Builders Association Pavilion along the face dock, where builders of the world’s largest yachts are represented.

There’s also a Yacht Builders Tent, a “village of villages” with displays from yacht-building countries. Another help this year for the show-goer: an expanded and revamped Electronics Pavilion at Bahia Mar with a more pedestrian-friendly layout.

Boats, gear and more

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With the boat market stabilizing and beginning to grow again, many builders have new models to capture the eye of prospective buyers at the fall and winter shows. A small sampling of new offerings at Lauderdale includes Boston Whaler’s 210 Montauk and Beneteau’s Barracuda 9, an outboard-powered 29-footer that can double-dip as a fishing or cruising boat. Hinckley will have its new T34, a 32-knot dayboat with jetdrives and joystick controls, and Cruisers will be showing its 41 Cantius, a sports coupe with two staterooms and two heads.

Horizon Yachts will be showing its PC58, a new entry in the builder’s power catamaran series. With a 24-foot, 6-inch beam, the PC58 is spacious, with an on-deck master stateroom forward, a comfortable saloon and galley and dining/entertaining areas on the aft main deck and flybridge.

The Italian shipyard Cantiere delle Marche will be showing its second steel-and-aluminum Darwin Class 86, Percheron, an exploration yacht that will carry its new owners across the Atlantic from France to Florida. After the show, they plan to cruise the South American coast to Argentina, come back up to transit the Panama Canal and then visit the Galapagos Islands.

Among the new electronics at the show will be Raymarine’s gyro-stabilized T470SC night vision camera with FLIR thermal imaging technology, which integrates with Raymarine multifunction displays, including its new e-Series HybridTouch models. Kannad Marine will have its now FCC-approved SafeLink R10 survivor recovery system, which attaches to the life jacket and uses GPS and AIS to send an alert and location to AIS-equipped boats when someone falls overboard.

Show venues this year are the Bahia Mar Yachting Center, Hall of Fame Marina, Las Olas Municipal Marina, Fort Lauderdale Hilton Marina, Greater Fort Lauderdale/ Broward County Convention Center, and The Sails Marina. The convention center — air-conditioned for those seeking relief from the heat — is the epicenter for trailerable fishing, dive, high-performance and sport boats. Most boats there are smaller than 40 feet, and 53 manufacturers will have displays. However, the center also packs in 126 booths of fishing tackle, and dive and safety gear and accessories.

The convention center’s other big draw is educational seminars, put on by The Blue Wild Dive and Travel Show, the International Game Fish Association and Hook the Future, a TV program that introduces children to fishing. The free seminars include fishing clinics in the new Kids’ Zone by Capt. Don Dingman, founder of the non-profit Hook the Future, as well as presentations on free-diving and scuba diving, spearfishing, marine art, seamanship, boating safety, conservation, underwater photography and videography, product demonstrations and talks on dolphin, tuna, marlin, wahoo, king, inshore, offshore and bottom fishing, says John Nigro, show director of land and booth displays. Adult seminars run from Thursday to Sunday; kids’ clinics will be on Saturday and Sunday.

The 296-footer Nero, the queen of the show.

Sheri Daye, producer of The Blue Wild Dive and Travel Show, expected a couple dozen exhibitors — dive equipment manufacturers and retailers, dive boat and destination operators, marine artists, and dive photographers and videographers — at the convention center, in addition to speakers and seminars on wreck and reef diving, skin and scuba diving, and night, cave and open-water diving.

Meanwhile, back at TrawlerPort, experts will be giving seminars on cruising under power and the cruising lifestyle, including how to get started in cruising, using a multifunction display, what you need to know before stepping aboard your dream boat, distance cruising, how to cruise with your significant other and sessions on cruising the Bahamas, the Keys and the Intracoastal Waterway.

Getting around

Getting from venue to venue is much easier now because of a growing network of shuttle buses, water taxis and riverboats. Parking within walking distance of the show is available at the Las Olas riverfront lot at Los Olas Boulevard and the ICW bridge. Free shuttle bus service is available from Park ’n’ Ride lots at War Memorial Park, The Sails, the convention center garage and the parking lot under the SE 17th Street bridge. Water taxi service, which costs $10 for an all-day pass, is available from the Doubletree Hotel near the Galleria Mall parking garage, the convention center, the Bahia Mar and the Fort Lauderdale Hilton. Also, there’s free riverboat transportation between the Bahia Mar and the downtown Las Olas Riverfront (not to be confused with the parking lot at Las Olas and the ICW bridge). Shuttle buses and water taxis run from one hour before the show opens until one hour after it closes.

Tickets are $34 online and $36 at the show for Thursday only, which is prime-time preview day; $36 online for a general admission two-day pass, $38 at the show; $18 online for one day, $20 at the show; and $3 a day online for children 6-15, $5 at the show. Children younger than 6 will be admitted free.

Show hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Thursday through Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday.

Visit for more information.

See related articles:

- Our short list of new boats to see at Fort Lauderdale

- Powerboats to see at FLIBS

- Arrive in style

- The express boat's traditional side

November 2012