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Photos by Billy Black

Whether you’re in the mood to buy or not, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show is a spectacle. Against a backdrop of golden sunsets, palm trees and pretty women — lots of pretty women — the show reminds us that it is, in fact, a “show,” not just a sales venue.

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First, the superyachts. They boggle the mind, but the dinghies and runabouts and fishing boats bring us back down to earth, to reality, where our checkbooks reside. The docks were crowded with serious buyers and tire-kickers, families and retired couples, folks from up North and from across the Atlantic — all of whom came to see the latest boats, innovative technology and ways to enjoy the water, perhaps with a jet pack strapped on. They also came to this 53rd edition, held Oct. 25-29, to see fireworks and a yacht chef cook-off and to attend seminars on subjects that included circumnavigating, spearfishing and first aid at sea.

The show’s numbers are impressive: 1,200 boats, from a 9-foot inflatable to Cakewalk, a 281-foot superyacht; 127 new-boat dealers; 37 brokerage houses; 3 million square feet of exhibit space at six locations, including 770,000 square feet under tents. For the truly trivia-minded there also were 34 buses to carry visitors to the show sites and eight beer dispensers minded by Bud girls, who were expected to sell about 30,000 cups of suds to show-goers and exhibitors.

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At the Bahia Mar Yachting Center the show was laid out in several themed villages, each with its own features and attractions: a high-performance village near the entrance, a sportfishing village with a display area for custom builders, TrawlerPort for those interested in cruising under power and super-yachts along the face dock — something for just about everyone.

January 2013 issue