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Big Apple boat show rings in the New Year

As attendance numbers continue to disappoint, the show promoter is lobbying for a change in dates for 2009

As attendance numbers continue to disappoint, the show promoter is lobbying for a change in dates for 2009

Despite promotions, great selection and a huge facility, the 103rd New York National Boat Show’s success was still hampered by the holiday season.

Held from Dec. 29 through Jan. 6 at the JacobK.JavitsCenter, holiday commitments again appeared to keep buyers and browsers away.

“The attendance was down from last year, but we got good reports from the floor about sales,” says Michael Duffy, show manager. “There were about 61,464, which is about three percent off from last year.”

Duffy says ever since they were given the time slot over New Year’s holiday by the JavitsCenter, they have seen steadily declining numbers of attendees.

“We really expected more people given all the new promotions with the show,” says Duffy. “We were at two Giants games handing out coupons and had a mobile billboard traveling around the city.”

The National Marine Manufacturer’s Association (NMMA), which organized the show, recently partnered with Crocs shoes, featuring a booth that allowed attendees to “test drive” their products. Much like a bowling alley, people could drop their shoes off, take a ticket and slip on a pair. (For more information about the Crocs promotion for upcoming shows, the featured article in our Current section, Page 20).

“It is a unique promotion and does play off the popularity of the brand right now, and we got a lot of positive feedback about that,” says Duffy. “We also did a promotion with the motorcycle show being held in the city at the same time, where people could buy a combined ticket and save $7. Surprisingly, we had more people come from the motorcycle show to the boat show rather than vice versa.”

According to Duffy, the show was consistently held after New Year’s Day from 1986 to 2002, but in 2003 the JavitsCenter shifted it back into the holiday block. Duffy says average attendance before the switch was around 95,000 to 100,000 and afterwards, around 75,000.

“It wasn’t until last year that we started to dip into the mid-60s,” says Duffy.

At press time, the dates for the New York show in 2009 have not been announced.

“We would love to change the dates, but it is not up to us,” says Duffy. “We are currently working with dealers and state legislators to make them aware of our situation so they understand what we’re going through.”

Despite the ill-placed dates, people who did attend seemed to enjoy themselves.

“It is an excellent show,” says Tom Herbert from Mt. Pocono, Pa. “We’ve been to three out of the last five shows and there definitely seems to be more variety [of boats] this year.”

Jeff Nelson from Southold, on Long Island, says he has been coming for the past 12 years and while boat prices have gone up in that time, there were still good values to be had.

“I was looking at some Wellcraft models,” says Nelson. “But right now I’m just looking. I have a 26.8-foot Sea Ray and a 31-foot Sundancer, and those keep me busy.”

Out of 1,000 newest luxury and cruising yachts, one that consistently turned heads was the 33-foot navy blue Sun Riva built by the Ferretti Group with a top speed of 42 knots, with a price tag of $585,000. Other featured boats included the Cruisers 520 Sports Coupe, 52 Ovation from Silverton and the Sunseeker 53 Portofino from the British manufacturer.

The show also featured interactive workshops such as a digital Fetch-N-Fish Tank that gave attendees a fish-eye view of how lures act underwater and a Concept to Reality feature area that featured up-and-coming boat models.

A speaker at the show was Capt. Richard Werner, Safe Boating America’s Instructor of the Year for 2007. At his booth, Werner and his associate captain, Richard Hoffer, told attendees about their boating courses offered in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

“In general, boating safety comes down to common sense,” says Werner. “It’s about adhering to local rules and regulations.”

Werner says statistically, boating accidents have gone down year after year as boat rules have gone up, and they educate about 3,000 people per year.

“What sets us apart is that all of our instructors are licensed captains and have plenty of experience on the sea,” says Werner. “We also have multiple Coast Guard instructors, and we also offer CPR courses through FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency].”

The course fees run between $50 to $100 and there is an eight-hour minimum requirement of hands-on training on the water. Werner says he has been part of the program for the past three years and enjoys every minute of it.

“I’ve been a boater for 25 years, ever since I was a young teen, and being a part of this keeps us active on the water,” says Werner. “It is fun meeting new people and having new experiences. The show has been really good and we’ve gotten a lot of foot traffic and people asking a lot of questions about our program.”

For more information on the courses, visit

As for next year’s show, Duffy says while he is optimistic, he makes no promises about anything being different.

“We’ll have to wait and see what happens,” he says.

Updates will be posted throughout the year at .